Lessons learned from travelling with a baby

Benoît after taking his malaria prophylaxis. Not sure how much actually got in.
Look at us, offering all this advice, as though we were experts!  A few people have asked us for tips for travelling with babies, so here goes...

1. When booking your seats on your flight, book an aisle and a window seat.   This is actually a great tip for anyone traveling as a couple, with or without a child. If the flight isn't full, people won't usually choose to sit in the middle, so very often you will wind up with an empty seat between you and your partner, where your baby can lie or sit.  Worst case scenario is that there is someone sitting in the middle seat, inc which care you just offer them whichever seat you like least (aisle or window) and you and your partner sit together.

2. If possible, book a room that has a separate living area, because if you don't, the fun ends when the lights go out for the baby's bedtime.  We've made this mistake twice now, and kicked ourselves for it.  As I am writing this, Dave and I are whispering to each other in the dark so that we don't wake the baby, who is asleep in the corner.  A balcony that you can hang out on is a close second to a separate living space.

3. Some people will say to make sure to nurse or feed while taking off and landing. We have never done this and haven't had a problem yet, but if you are having trouble with the flights, it might be worth a try. I think with the way that cabins are pressurized these days, the main reason that babies can be so fussy on flights is that their sleep schedules get so messed up and they are exhausted. So trying to make sure that they get enough sleep before/during /after has been the best approach for us, as well as feeding him when he gets hungry, rather than making him wait for takeoff.

4. Bring your carrier on the plane with you. I prefer a Baby K-tan, Dave likes the Ergo baby, either way, wearing the baby in a carrier is cozy for the baby and allows  you to use your arms and relax a little more. If your baby can sit up, some people really like bringing a neck pillow for the baby, so they can sit on your lap, lie back and relax.

5. Take the red-eye flight whenever possible - it increases the chances that your baby will sleep on the flight. The few times we have taken day flights Ben has been awake the whole time and its exhausting!

6. If possible, have one of you pre-board the flight with your carry on luggage to get everything set up while the other stays off of the plane until the last minute. The more time you can buy yourself off of the plane, the better.  Before take off seems to be when babies get the most fidgety so reducing your time on the tarmac helps.

7. Get to the airport early. This might seem like a no-brainer for a lot of people, but my motto has always been 'if you don't miss a flight a year, you spend too much time in airports'.  I pride myself on just how close I can cut it. But alas, running through the airport with a baby in tow takes way longer than it otherwise would, is way more stressful, and has made me rethink my policy. 

8. Baby meds (just in case): it might be worthwhile to bring baby tylenol (of the dye free variety so it doesn't get everywhere), or antihistamines these can sometimes be hard to find in the variety that you like when you are traveling.  Also, check well in advance what vaccines or prophylaxis your baby needs, sometimes travel clinics need to special order them and that can take some time.

9. Bring a comfortable head set or earphones. It can be hard to read with a baby in your arms, but its the perfect time to watch a movie. The movies that we saw on our last flights were the few movies that we have been able to watch in their entirety since Ben was born.

10. Bring a variety of baby clothes, swaddles, and a blanket on the flight. The temperature on planes can vary widely. The extra clothes help in case of an accident, too.

11. Bring extra diapers on the flight, in case it gets delayed (which flights in and out of NYC always seem to do)! 

12. Find out as much as you can about your flight, so you can either take advantage of the services provided or brace yourself for their absence. Our flight to Senegal (we're looking at you Delta) did not have bassinets or changing tables!

13. Finally, if you have any long car rides to take, it might be worthwhile to bring some formula ready to go in a bottle and a separate bottle of water. I say this because sometimes it can be hard to breastfeed - for example when you are stuck in traffic, and breastmilk doesn't always last that long, especially in a hot climate.  The nice thing about formula for these situations is that it can stay in powder form right up until the time when you need it, at which point you can mix in some water and its ready to go.

14. Have no shame! Do whatever it takes to make it through the flight. Here I am covered in a swaddle shushing like a crazy lady, but you know what?  It worked!
Left: Catee the friendly ghost, feeding and shushing, Right: Benoît snoozing in his carrier on our way to Barbados.

Finally, enjoy your trip!

PS: I am sure we'll update this post as time goes by, but feel free to ask any questions about our experience. Alternatively, we'd love to hear your advice...



We have just returned from a week in Senegal. Dave and I came along with me so that I could attend I workshop for capacity building of civil society, parliamentarians and the media in budget analysis and advocacy for the health of mother and child.

I hope I haven’t lost your interest already. 

Budget tracking may seem like a boring topic, but I find it so interesting.  For years now, countries across the globe have been saying that maternal and child health is one of their top priorities. Statements have been made, coalitions built, strategies have been developed. On the surface, it would seem as though a lot is happening. But when you look a little closer you find that despite all the rhetoric, little progress has been made in improving the health of mother and children, especially in the poorest countries in the world.

Ever since I have worked in this field,  every time we question why contraceptives are not available in the villages or why health centers are not staffed with qualified personnel, we almost always get the same answers: there’s no money, we don’t have the funding, and we can’t afford it.

A budget is the single best indicator of a country’s priorities.  It is the best way to tell whether a country is putting its money where its mouth is and whether or not it has taken steps towards fulfill the commitments that it has made to maternal and child health.

The three day workshop was attended by delegations from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal.  Each country was represented by members of civil society organizations and the media, along with parliamentarians, and their ministries of finance and of health.

The countries represented in the workshop have budgets that rank among the least transparent in the world. Of the countries represented, Burkina Faso’s had the best transparency score  in the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Survey – a measly 23 out of a 100, Niger, with the least transparent budget scored a depressing 4/100, with zero meaningful opportunities for civil society to contribute  to the country’s budgeting process. The survey evaluates the transparency of a budget by looking at what information is made public and when, as well as who gets to contribute to the process and how often.

The aim of the workshop was to have members of these delegations first understand the important role that the budget plays in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) and the financial costs of not investing in RMNCH. It also taught how good health policies are developed and costed, and provided options for increasing fiscal space – the money to fund these policies – within the existing budget.  A budget is public property, it represents the money that belongs to each and every citizen of a country and therefor, the public should have a genuine say in how the money is distributed and how is has been spent. This workshop provided participants with an outline of the steps that should take place in the budgeting process, and all of the opportunities in which civil society should be able to contribute. At the end, each of the delegations developed advocacy objectives and strategies to improve civil society’s contribution to the budgeting process in order to prioritize health.

A good friend of mine who works in finance once told me that talking about money scares people, that people often feel as though they don’t have enough knowledge to contribute and are too embarrassed to say so. That definitely explains how I have felt and I know some of the participants agreed. We were afraid that the workshop might be too long, too technical and hard to follow, but we could not have been more wrong. The participants lapped up every word on every slide, and were thrilled to be equipped with the knowledge of the role they can plan in ensuring that their country’s budget prioritizes maternal and child health.

The presentation on increasing fiscal space even got a standing ovation!

Ile de Gorée, Senegal
Ile de Gorée, Senegal
Ile de Gorée, Senegal
On a more personal note, attending a conference with my baby and husband was busy, to say the least, and stirred up a lot of feelings that I hadn't anticipated. When I returned to work at the beginning of April, I felt like I was struggling to be the parent that I wanted to be and struggling to do the job that I wanted to. I could no longer stay with the baby all day and I couldn't stay late at work either.  In many ways, the workshop only made these feelings worse.

Usually, when I attend a conference or workshop, I spend the coffee breaks networking with other agencies and donors, or helping out in some way. On this trip I spent my time running through the halls of the now-faded King Fahd Palace Hotel so that I could get back to the room to breastfeed. At the end of the day, rather than debriefing with other facilitators, I was stressing about getting back to Ben and Dave, who had taken a week off of his own work so that I could travel to Senegal. I felt like I was no just falling short at work and parenting but also at being a wife, and questioning if the trip had truly been worth it.   I worried about the precedent that I had set in my office: would other parents now be expected to travel when their babies are 4 months?  Would they be expected to foot the bill for their families to join, as I did?  Had I just done my colleagues a huge disservice? Then I started to beat myself up for being such an over-thinker: do I have to make all the right decisions all the time?  Does everything I do have to be perfectly feminist all the time? Why do I always second guess myself?

Am I the only one that does this, feeling guilty about feeling guilty?

Luckily, in the last days of the trip reminded me of another reason that I went to Senegal: I really do love traveling. After the conference ended, Dave, Ben and I went to Les Collines de Niassam, a beautiful eco-lodge three hours outside of Dakar, were we relaxed, bird watched, ate delicious food, went for a long walk to the salt wells, and took a boat ride, where we gorged ourselves on freshly picked oysters. It may not have answered any of my questions, but it sure was lovely. For now, it feels like it was the right decision to go.

Dave, relaxing on the balcony of our room at Niassam
Senegalese women harvest salt in Palmarin, Senegal

Salt wells in Palmarin 

 Benny came along for the ride.

A man cleaning his fields in Palmarin

Thomas, our boat guide and oyster-picker.
Freshly picked oysters
I think we had about 40 oysters each.


I'm a stereotype

This morning I was walking through the aisles of a store with Ben in his stroller when I kept on bumping into the same man. The first time I said, "Sorry" as I tried to squeeze past him -not so bad. The second time, I walked past him, and said, "sorry" as though anticipating that he might accidentally back up and bump in to me - kind of bad.  The third time I saw him the man said, "Hello again!" to me and I responded with "Sorry!" That's really bad!  I actually apologized to him for just being there. How ridiculous is that?! Sometimes I say sorry when other people bump into me!

Have you ever realized that you fulfill a stereotype?

Sorry, I couldn't help myself.
PS: the video is from Anchorman 2


Our baby essentials (so far)

Ahh! Babies require so much stuff! Brooklyn is a very fertile place these days, and a number of people have asked me about what baby gear we would recommend them, so here goes:

Stroller: We use the Chicco key fit caddy with the Key Fit 30 car seat. We love it. It's small and affordable, with a huge basket underneath. We bring it on the subway, out to restaurants and the caddy folds up pretty small for car rides. The car seat comes with a base that you leave in the car so you can just click it in when you use it, but it can also be used without. The combo was also perfect for travel as we avoided having to bring a full stroller and a car seat. We bought the car seat on craigslist for 1/3 of the price of buying it new. Often parent groups and online communities will have lots of posts of things for sale. If you keep your eye out you can find a lot of stuff for great prices.

Swaddles:  When the baby was born we loved the stiff flannel swaddles from the hospital. They are cheap and stiff enough to keep the baby tightly wrapped, which is key.  When the baby got a little bigger, we used the Halo sleepsack swaddle which is amazing. At first I was horrified by it (it looks like a straitjacket) but I soon fell in love when I saw how quickly Benoît falls asleep in it.  We have them in the organic cotton variety and the microfleece variety.  I personally prefer the microfleece ones because they pin the arms down extra tightly, ha! I have also used  Summer brand which was fine. I have also heard good things about the Miracle blanket.
* Note on Aden and Anais swaddles: they are beautiful, but they are not great swaddles - they are too big and don't stay snug.  As a winter baby, we hardly used ours. We have, however, used them as extra blankets in warm weather, as stroller covers and nursing covers.  In short: they are great for warm weather, but don't expect to actually use them as swaddles.

Diapers:  We use DiaperKind cloth diapering service with prefold diapers and covers made by Thirsties, Flip and Rumparooz. All the covers are great.  These are the less expensive covers that have snaps to adjust for size. We also use Snappi fasteners which make putting on the diapers really easy (honestly just as easy as disposables, once you get the hang of it). We use the service because we didn't have a washer dryer until yesterday, and love it.  While travelling we use Honest diapers.  We don't use any diaper creams, powders or products at all and Benoît has never had diaper rash.

Crib: We have the Alma Mini, which is small but perfectly sized for Benoit's room. We haven't had any problems with it yet.

Carrier:  We got the Baby K'Tan as a hand-me-down and I loved it as soon as I could figure out how to use it. Its packs small enough that you can always keep it in your bag, and its not bulky underneath a jacket.  Caveat: you need to buy it sized for the parent, so its not easy for both parents to share, unless they are the same size. The Moby is quite similar in feel but the size can be changed. Also, this type of carrier is not very supportive so might be better for younger babies.

Another carrier:  Now that Benoît it getting heavier, we really like the Ergobaby. We currently have the Ergobaby Performance, which is a more breathable fabric. This is the carrier that is the most comfortable for longer uses without causing neck and back pain, it also has a napping hood which is great. Ergo baby just came out with a 4 way carrier which looks awesome.

Running stroller: We have the Bob Revolution SE and love it. Because Benoît is still only 4 months we use it with a car seat adapter, which also has an infant adapter.  Its a little on the pricey side, but we just didn't want to have any excuses not to exercise. We have been using this since a few weeks after the baby was born. It folds easily, maneuvers well, has a big basket underneath and fits in the trunk of our car. We also bought an attachment that holds two bottles and our phones / keys, etc...

Baby bouncer: We have really liked the BabyBjorn bouncer. Ben loves to sit in it. It can be bounced by the parent or an older baby and it can be reclined to be more conducive to sleep.

Diaper bag:  We have this SoYoung diaper bag. It was kind of a splurge, but we love it for longer outings or when we have the stroller to strap it too.  It is also perfect for plane rides: it fits a change of clothes, loads of diapers and wipes, a changing pad, swaddles and a couple of bottles.  We also have this SkipHop pad that is great for throwing into another bag.

Pacifier: We love Wubanubs!  They are a stuffed animal and pacifier in one, and perfect for bed time because the stuffed animal can rest on the baby's chest, making it more likely to stay in place. It is also easier for the baby to grab a hold of it and move it around.

Nursing cover: I don't think that a woman should have to cover, but there have been times when what I am wearing does not really lend themselves to nursing and the cover allows me to nurse discreetly. I also use it when I am pumping because, lets be honest, no one wants to see  that.  I think these are all more or less the same, so its really about finding a pattern that suits you, just make sure it has a wire that allows you to look at your baby easily.   Here is the one that I own.

Baby clothes: We have been extremely fortunate to have received a lot of hand me downs. But my favorite baby clothes, by far, are from Zara. They are reasonably priced, totally adorable, and great for big, cloth-diapered bums. I also like plain-old, white onesies.  Any brand will do, but  Gerber has some nice affordable ones.

I think those are the major ones. Is there anything that I am missing? I would love to know...  Also, we are on the hunt for a high chair.  Any recommendations?


Camille Lepage

Camille Lepage in Central African Republic.  AP Photo/Sylvain Cherkaoui, taken from US News
I am completely obsessed with Camille Lepage, the 26 year old photojournalist who was recently killed in Central African Republic.

Camille wanted to show the world about the most neglected conflicts and spend the last two years living in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

In an interview last year she said, "I want the viewers to feel what the people are going through. I'd like them to empathize with them as human beings, rather than seeing them as another bunch of Africans suffering from war somewhere in this dark continent. I wish they think: 'Why on Earth are those people in living hell; why don't we know about it and why is no one doing anything?' I would like the viewers to be ashamed of their government for knowing about it without doing anything to make it end."

I am not sure what it is that I am drawn to in her work. Maybe its that she took beautiful, often shocking, photos; or maybe its that she worked in countries and on issues that I care about deeply. Maybe its that somehow, she reminds me of myself at 26. I was 26 when I started working for MSF. At the time, I was willing to go anywhere and to do anything to help people in need, particularly those in conflict settings.  Help is a loaded term and probably not the best description of what I was actually doing, but I can't think of a better way to say it, that is truly what I wanted to do. I have changed a lot as a person since then and in some ways better than others, I may be more effective at my work, even more thoughtful and conscientious, but I can get caught so up in skepticism, pragmatism, and diplomacy that I lose my inspiration along the way. In many ways, I miss my 26 year old self and the confidence that I once had.

Some people might say that Camille took too many risks or that she was too young, or even that she died in vein.  I hope they don't. We need more people like her.

Please please please check out her work and learn about the conflicts that she covered in the the New YorkerNew York Times, The Washington Post (here too), AFP and her website.


Our family photos

There are few things that I was really insistent on after having Benoît, but one thing that I really wanted was a professional photographer to come take pictures of the family together. I knew that if we didn't we would only have pictures with either Dave or I in them, but not with both of us. They would also probably all be taken with our phones, which is less than ideal.  We did some initial looking around and found that baby photographers were either really expensive (!)  or were taking pictures that just weren't our style (picture babies in costumes tucked into baskets).

We reached out to Lev Kuperman, our wedding photographer.  He knew exactly what we wanted and took beautiful photos at a really reasonable price.  I was super excited to see that he posted some of our pictures on his blog.  I can't say enough about Lev. He has now shared two very special moments with us, and it just felt right having him come into our home when Ben was so young.  


The view from here (after a month back at work)

Wednesday marks the end of my first month back at work. The first week back I was like, "Yeah!  Its noon and I am already dressed! I am wearing a bra!  With under-wires, no less! I am having adult conversations!" I even went a couple of minutes without thinking about Benoît or anything else baby-related, for that matter.

My mother couldn't have been more right when she called that the honeymoon period. The joy of going back has already been replaced with a love of caffeine, and of the clock striking 5.  But while the romance with work might be over, my love for Ben is still going strong. Yes, I am exhausted, and no, Ben still doesn't sleep through the night. No, my clothes don't quite fit me yet, and yes, pumping is still the pits.  But nothing beats the feeling of coming home to this face every night.

From where I stand, things look pretty good.


You had me at Dakar

Boabab at dawn (Shahidul)
About a month ago, the week before I was set to return to work, my boss called to tell me about a workshop taking place in Senegal at the beginning of may. She was all, "There is this budget tracking workshop in Dakar, it would be so great if you could go, but no... its too early. Forget that I mentioned it, its no big deal.  Sigh.  It would just would be so great if you could go". The truth is that she had me at Dakar. From that point on, it was really more of a question of how to make the trip work with Benoît than whether or not I would go.  Travelling is sometimes the bane of my work existence - it can be really disruptive to my personal life - but it is also one of the parts of my job that I cherish the most, seeing new countries and meeting new people, it also helps me to better understand the contexts in which my colleagues work.  In some respects, my greatest professional asset has been my willingness to travel.  Ever since I got pregnant I have been wondering just how I would balance work with family, so I was eager to figure out how to get to Senegal with a four month old, 100% breastfeeding baby.

I was pleasantly surprised by just how many people were supportive of me travelling. Former colleagues and professional acquaintances were quick to share their stories of traveling with their babies, breastfeeding mid-conference, and to put me in touch with child care options. It was as though every mother that I had worked with wanted to show me that it was not only possible, but rewarding to have a travel-intensive job and have a baby.

Stilt Houses at Niassam (Flickriver)
The only caveat that these travelling mothers had shared was that they had each brought along a travel companion, usually a mother, sister or spouse, to help with the baby while they were away. I resisted this option initially, mainly because of the cost. It seemed crazy to me to have to spend so much money to be able to work, especially if I could do it on my own, so I did the research on going solo: I found flights form New York to Senegal, found a hotel, looked up malaria prevention for babies, found childcare. I started out proud of myself and excited about the adventure, but as more and more logistical details became apparent (would the flight have a bassinet? would the cars accomodate Benoît's car seat? would he tolerate the malaria prophylaxis?) I began feeling like I was just planning on taking the trip alone because I wanted to prove that it could be done, when in reality I was starting to dread dealing with these challenges on my own.

In the end I convinced Dave to come with me. Neither of us have been to Senegal so we're going to make a vacation out of it. You only live once, right?  I am, however, very aware of what a privilege it is to have the ability to bring my husband along with me on a trip like this. I can't help but feel a bit uncomfortable with the knowledge that -let's be honest here- rarely do the salaries from my line of work allow for the spouses, mothers or sisters to come along. One needs an independent source of wealth to make bringing someone along doable. There is still another part of me that knows that doing this trip alone could have been done, but have to admit that it would not have been easy. No matter how much help I would have gotten from my colleagues it would just not be as easy for me to travel with a baby as it is for childless men and women.
Lake Retba (Geekologie)
In the meantime, Dave and I are starting to get super excited: after the workshop we are going to stay at Les Collines Niassam in a house built on stilts over a lagoon. We're looking forward to some fresh Senegalese seafood, to boabab trees (like the one above), a trip to Ile de Goree, and if time permits, a visit to Lake Retba (the pink lake above).  We'll let you know how it goes!


Nanny and Ben

Life, by virtue of it's sheer persistence, has not been kind to my grandmother these days. She is 95 years old. For the past 3 years she has been just well enough to survive, but not well enough to enjoy living.

We remember her caring for us when we were little, the aroma of her apple pies, playing dress-up in her jewelry. It's not clear what she remembers. Nanny is just lucid enough to know that she has dementia and that she should recognize us, but doesn't. Her not knowing who we are pains us all. Visits are short: we make small talk, carefully avoid telling stories that might upset her or asking questions that might confuse her.  We were fearful of bringing Benoît to meet her yesterday. We didn't know how he would react - would he cry? Would he be scared? Would that upset Nanny even more?

Things did not look promising when we arrived - she was not feeling well and lying in bed unresponsive, but the most amazing thing happened when we put the baby in her bed - he snuggled up to her and her face lit up. No one spoke. They just grinned and stared into each others eyes. It was the first time I had seen her smile in years. Its unclear if she knew who he was, or why he was there but it was clear that she was happy about it.


Office Wall Paper

OK. Calling the nook in our family room an office is a bit of a stretch - maybe office nook would be more appropriate.Whatever you call it, I am thinking about using wall paper to punch up that space. Here are some ideas I have been looking at.

New York based Moonish has the most amazing magnetic plywood tiles (above) that can easily be moved around or removed. I really only posted the video because I think it looks cool.
(Above left: Ferm Living, right: De Gournay in House to Home)
From top right: Just Kids Wallpaper, Elle Decor April 2009 issue, bottom two from Blik

PS: Remember Surya Bonali?
PPS: Can you believe the CEO of Bayer actually said this? MSF's full response here.



This past Thursday a power failure in Brooklyn forced Dave and I to go to his parent's house in Connecticut. While lovely, their house can feel a bit isolated in the wintertime. Fearing that we might lose our minds staying inside the whole weekend, we went looking for a baby-friendly outdoor activity that would let us take advantage of all of the snow that we have been having lately. We decided to try snowshoeing with Ben.

We were surprised how fun and  baby-friendly the outing was! Snowshoeing is great because it requires minimal skill (the ability to walk), minimal gear (snowshoes, which are quite small nowadays - we rented ours at a local hiking shop), and a snowy trail.  We went to  Bull's Bridge, CT and had the whole path to ourselves. Next time it snows we are going to try going in Prospect Park!

A couple of lessons we learned from snowshoeing with a five 5 week old:
1. Just because it's warm in the parking lot, doesn't mean its warm on the trail. Bundle the baby up, especially if your carrier is outside of your jacket.  About 20 minutes into the hike Ben woke up in hysterics, presumably cold. We had unwisely left his blanket in the car  - we resolved this by stuffing as much of his carrier into my jacket and covering him with a folded swaddle.

2. Carry a bottle in your breast pocket. Both of these are important - the bottle because breastfeeding outside in the middle of winter is less than ideal, and the breast pocket is to keep the milk warm. When we tried to feed cold Ben (see above) with a cold bottle, he was understandably having none of it. After just 10 minutes of snowshoeing with the bottle in Dave's jacket, the milk was warm enough for him to take it.

PS: The Olympics have always been a little gay
PPS: We tried this delicious Salmon recipe, and this Eggplant Steak au Poivre and you should too!


Unsolicited advice on giving unsolicited advice

The other day I was sitting at a restaurant bottle feeding Ben, when a woman approached me and asked me why I wasn't breastfeeding him.  Despite my knowing that the question was inappropriate and all the possible reasons why a person would or could not breastfeed, I was in shock, and I stumbled to answer, "Uhhh, this is breastmilk... errr, I do breastfeed, I am trying to breastfeed!" And she proceeded to tell me how good breastfeeding was for her, and how she breastfed all of her own kids.

I don't doubt that the woman had the best intentions. I think most people offering unsolicited advice normally do, but that is besides the point. The point is how its received. It is hard for the person getting the advice not to interpret advice as criticism.  In that moment in the restaurant, I took that woman to be telling me that I should be breastfeeding and was doing something wrong by bottle feeding. As new parents, Dave and I have been given a plethora of conflicting advice: breastfeeding will make your baby smarter and healthier, breastfeeding is overrated, let your kid cry a bit and soothe himself if you don't he will be needy, never let your baby cry it will cause permanent emotional damage, co-sleep, don't co-sleep because it will cause attachment, use a pacifier, don't use a pacifier - it will ruin your baby's teeth, use a swaddle, swaddles will ruin your baby's hips, so on and so forth. You get it. Every decision we have made has been with full knowledge of its supposed risks, and none has been with any level of confidence. I truly believe that our experience is one that is common to almost all new parents, and so giving unsolicited advice is actually providing criticism at a time when what is most needed is encouragement.

While I was pregnant I read blog entries on Cup of Jo and Kveller about how nice it feels to have someone tell you that you are a good mom. At the time I didn't quite get just how true that would be. The truth is, whatever advice you are about to give, rest assured, they have heard it. Trust me. So from now on, whenever I get the inclination to offer up some of my expert advice (we are all guilty), I will hold that thought and instead say, "You are a good mom (or dad)".  I am sure that both of us will be better off for it.


Miscellaneous mercredi...

After 9 months of wanting to wear nothing but stretchy pants and mumus, I have regained my interest in clothes! I am not ready to venture into the denim department just yet (I will be wearing my maternity jeans for another little while – don’t judge) but I would be happy with a new jacket and some sweaters. When I used to plant trees Carhartt was the go-to brand for super durable, nice looking work wear. Now they have a line of street wear that I love – here are some pieces that I have been drooling over.

PS: I am brushing up on my knowledge of the conflict in Central African Republic. I am starting at Times Topics (Terry - it's up to date!), BBC profilesAll Africa. MSF / Doctors Without Borders for humanitarian news. Do you have any good news and analysis sources to share?

PPS: Read Don't Date a Girl Who Travels to see why its so amazing that Dave has put up with me for so long...

PPPS: See how the US compares to other nations when it comes to paid maternity leave.

PPPPS: I just asked Dave, "What day of the week is it today, its Tuesday, right?" to which he responded, "Yes, its Tuesday."  Nope. Both wrong. It's Wednesday. I guess we're not as well slept and clear headed as we thought...


Maternity Leave + Paternity Leave = Gourmet Cooking!

I heart paternity leave. Big time. You heard me. Paternity leave. Having Dave around for the past four weeks has been wonderful. As much as I love him, I can't imagine being at home alone with Ben at this stage when he's so small and we're just trying to figure him out.

Dave is bonding with the baby and me in ways that he wouldn't be able to if he were at the office - he has had the time he needs to get to know Ben, to get comfortable consoling him, figuring out what will put him to sleep, or pique his attention. The benefits of having Dave home are many, not the least of which is the extra set of hands. Hands to bring me water when I am nursing, bottles when I am pumping, to take the baby when he's inconsolable and I have tried everything, to play with him, and watch over him when I am busy. Rather than being exhausted (okay - we are both still a bit tired) and overwhelmed, we are happy and doing well.

Dave and I have always loved food and cooking, but one of the best parts of having family leave together has been that we are able to cook dinner together and we have an excuse to stay in! Since Ben's birth we have made a point of experimenting with new recipes, and made a ritual of setting the table, lighting a candle. Here is what we have experimented with and loved:

Delicious salmon with garlic, lemon and dill.
Fennel, quinoa and pomegranate salad (top image).
The best herb roasted lamb chops I have ever tasted.
Pan roasted chicken with harissa chickpeas (image above).
The Plumpjack Balboa burger with pickled onions.
Sausage and broccoli rabe fritatta.
Baked cod wrapped in bacon.
This pasta sauce that we saw on a chalk board at Brooklyn Larder: 1 tin of Matiz sardines, 2 cans of peeled tomatoes, chili de arbol, and some garlic (this was our own addition) over fresh pasta.

PS: We're making an effort to eat more responsibly these days, so all of the meat we have cooked has been local and free range / organic.
PPS: If you are looking at these recipes and worrying about our arteries, here are our philosophies on food:

PPPS: First two images (and most recipes!) from Bon Appetit. Image above from the Print Shop by Alexandra's Kitchen.