Hello and hello. We are back from a long leg of Residency Tour 2014 and happy to be in our own beds, with our own smells, and old jars of applesauce going bad in the fridge.
It was a good trip. We did exactly 4% of what I’d want to do while traveling, but 99% of what I expected to do with two kids under three. And it was actually really great.
Waylon was a dream. He ate well, slept hard, and happily drew giant monsters and ABCs over and over again while we crossed state lines. He was adaptable and cheerful, basically the exact opposite of what I expected a three-year-old away from home to be like.
Eva was a toddler getting a tooth who didn’t want to be in a car-seat, but my expectations were low. And truthfully she was fine. She was curious and excited. There were a few nights she didn’t sleep well, but she made up for it by napping in the stroller and feeding herself bottles like an ace baby.
I did a lot of research before this trip. I googled things to do in each location and reached out to you for advice on traveling with little ones. You were so helpful. The restaurants, museums, and attractions you suggested were all on point. As far as the travel tips, here are the five pieces of advice that saved me the most:
1) iPad. We borrowed one from my parents and it was a lifeline not so much in the car, but in the hotel when Eva was napping and Waylon and I were locked in the bathroom like hostages.
2) Dollar Store. Before we left, I stopped by the dollar store and got things like a slinky, a dry erase board, finger skateboards, and giant blinking glow wands. All big hits and major distractions in the car.
3) Food. I knew to bring food, but what kind of food. Best buys were applesauce pouches, veggie stick bags, fig bars, cliff bars, water bottles, and dry cereal. We also brought along a few bananas to slowly rot on our dashboard!
4) Foot rest. Whoever suggested building a footrest under Waylon to keep his legs from dangling the whole time–my eternal gratitude. We put the pack n’ play and my duffle bag on the floor below his car-seat, giving him a place to rest his feet and prop up whatever he was playing with.
5) Headphones. This should have been an obvious thing to bring, but it wasn’t. After it was suggested, I packed both earbuds for me (so I could listen to Serial and not wake anyone up) and regular headphones for Waylon for whenever Eva was sleeping in the same room or car.
Austin interviewed in Hershey, Philadelphia, Boston, and Portland and they all went well. Each program and location has its set of pros and cons. It will be hard to decide which to rank first.
I tried to ask as many questions as I could in each city, interrogating everyone from the bellboy (bellman?) to the moms at the playground about the weather, restaurants, schools, and parking. I tried not to be annoying but I was annoying. Where do you grocery shop? Do you use public transportation? How are the parks? Where do you get your haircut? Do you go to church? Used illegal drugs? HOW’S YOUR MARRIAGE DOING?
I was also the Barbara Walters of my minivan, asking Austin what he thought about each detail of our possible life in each city. Will you be happy here? Do you think we could afford a three bedroom apartment? Won’t I probably need at least two more pairs of Hunter boots with these weather conditions?
It was hard not to let insignificant things influence our opinion of a place. For example, the hotel staff in Portland was nicer than the hotel staff in Boston, but that obviously doesn’t matter as we will not be living at the Hilton Garden Inn.
The whole process is very strange. These four cities are so different from each other that it’s hard to place the right amount of value on their qualities.
Descriptions based on locals, research, and experience listed below.
Familiar, expensive, lots to do, lots to see, could maybe buy a house?, close to beach, close to my parents, close to New York, did I mention I could get easy babysitting?, dirty, restaurants!, pubs, friends nearby, public transportation, long commutes, city living, farmer’s markets, small apartment, parking situation?, safety situation, city of brotherly love.
New, exciting, have you looked around this place?, far from family, far from friends, expensive, could not buy a house, could not have both cars, could maybe not afford thai take-out, tiny apartment, Children’s Museum, big city feel, could say “Oh, I live in Boston!”, stuff to write about, did I mention it’s expensive?, beautiful, lots to do, lots to see, lots to eat, adventure, good schools, great people, friends to be made, parking tickets, city of education.
Familiar, inexpensive, wouldn’t have to move, close to family, close to friends, close to three major cities, could buy a house, could buy a three bedroom house, could have a yard, could have an office, good schools, not Boston, not on the coast, not near amazing Children’s museums, dire restaurant situation, small, final dream destination nearby, quiet, babysitting available, happy memories to build on, Pleasantville.
New, exciting, are you looking at this picture?, healthy, on the coast, near all the lobsters, far from family, far from friends, no babysitting, could maybe buy a house?, beautiful beach, cold ocean, could say “Oh, I live in Maine!”, hipster vibe, all the amazing foods, all the amazing restaurants, good schools, friends to be made, walking trails, a whole state to explore, winter jackets, winter fun, winter everything, a city of interesting footwear and raw milk.
This time next year we will be living one of many very different lives.
The good news is that no matter what, we will be okay. We’ll make a life and a happy home no matter what that piece of paper says.
Thanks for walking alongside us.
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