BabyM first experienced swimming at 9 months old in Seattle in August. M and I carried him into the pool and he looked around bewildered. Within a few minutes he got a bit cold so BabyM and I curled up in towels near the pool. That’s when M decided it was time to dive in on the other side of the pool and swam towards us. Screaming and crying insued and would not be calmed until we were safely inside. For two weeks afterwards BabyM hated bath time and anything else involving water. However, he had to endure us picnicking by the pool, and watching his older cousins play in the pool. Finally he stuck his feet in a puddle of water next to the pool and plopped down splashing and giggling.
Don’t take me out of the puddle!
Can we go swimming?
The next time we took him into the pool was at twilight with the pool lights on. He was calm as he took it all in, splashed a bit and decided pools were okay. After that he wanted to be in the pool any time we were close to it!
We attended three baby swimming classes with BabyM while we were in Germany in September. Since BabyM enjoyed swimming so much we were eager to get him back in the water. While I expected any chance to play with him in the pool to be fun, I was surprised at how much I learned in the classes! The basic premise is that you can teach young babies how to float on their backs and how to roll onto their backs if anything should happen. During the lessons the babies are exposed to different water scenarios; getting splashed, floating, rolling onto their backs and even diving. Even more exciting was that after the 45 minute classes, BabyM would sleep for longer stretches at night!
We visited a friend who had a baby pool set up in their backyard and realized we needed to get BabyM a pool of his own. The more time we can splash the better! Of course, that pool is now being used as a toy box in our Airbnb in Lisbon.
Baby pool or toy box?
We tried to take BabyM on a walk along the Pacific Ocean at Redondo beach in February but he complained about the wind so he barely even glimpsed the ocean before we left. A week later we wandered along the beach in La Jolla where it was less windy and he slept most of the way. However, the first time we brought him to the Ocean with the intention of going into the water was in Portugal when he was just under 11 months old.
Running after waves in the sand is exhausting!
As usual, first the beach was terrifying for BabyM. Then he took a nap and had a snack and all of a sudden the sand was interesting enough to distract him from his fears. Before long he was watching a boy about a year older playing with a toy cement truck at the waters edge. Then BabyM found his own feet in the water as the waves crashed onto the beach, and just like that he forgot to be scared.
When we lived in California, M and I would go on bike rides when we had some free time. Both of us would also frequently bike into work. So, it’s no surprise that after having BabyM we were interested in continuing the biking trips. As I looked into biking with a baby, I came across numerous requirements before BabyM would be fit to biking. One notable requirement was that BabyM be at least a year old.
Now, one of the things we have come to realize in the last year, is that what is considered safe and normal in one country is not in another. Car seats approved for use in Europe and the US are different. Biking is another area of disagreement with Americans thinking the baby needs to be at least a year old, whereas Germans are happy to start biking much earlier. For the trip we borrowed a bike trailer from M’s cousin. It came with a styrofoam insert for babies younger than a year. He giggled the first time he took a ride in it and fell asleep in it easily, unlike when he’s in his car seat.
BabyM napping in the trailer during a lunch break.
We chose a route along the Rhine river between Bingen and Bad Breisig which is just north of Koblenz. The route was flat and famous for the sheer number of castles. We biked for three days for about two hours a day, leaving us plenty of time to explore the small towns along the way. I borrowed M’s mom’s electric bike and pulled the trailer, while M carried a backpack and the bike saddle bags. Each time we went up a small incline I was able to whiz right by him with the aid of the battery pack!
BabyM, J and a castle
Stopping to lather on the sunscreen.
Ooooh! Pretty castle!
Bike path is right along the river bank.
Every night we would look at the weather, and it would inform us of an impending thunderstorm the next day. After much worrying, it only ever rained on us as we rode the one mile to the train station the day we went back to M’s home town.
Bike break on a playground!
In the end, our verdict is that bike trips with babies are entirely possible.
Six months ago we packed up everything into a rental car with the plan on traveling for an undefined period of time. Now, we are settling into our new, albeit somewhat temporary home, at a wonderful friend’s apartment in Berlin. We cut our trip to Morocco short in order to fly back to Germany so that M could start a brand new job on February 2nd. In our typical style, we flew into an airport near Dusseldorf, rented a car and drove halfway across Germany to M’s parents to pack up some belongings before continuing the rest of the way across Germany to Berlin. M drove, as I don’t drive in snow, nor am I terribly skilled at driving manual transmission vehicles, and I especially don’t do the combination of the two. Don’t believe me? I’m sure my parents would be happy to tell you about that time they thought I should get some experience driving in snow, two hours away from home on a mountain road. I managed to pop not one, but two tires…luckily M grew up driving on snowy country roads and we arrived in Berlin without incident.
So how did we get to this point, where we are making a new start in a new city? The short version is that we haven’t just been traveling these past few months. Instead we have juggled visiting friends and family with applying and interviewing for jobs. M recently received a few offers and has chosen one that he couldn’t possibly be more excited about. Unfortunately we have become used to academic job timelines where interviewing happens months after applying and actually starting jobs takes even longer. As a result we weren’t prepared when he received his contract asking him to start within a week and a half – a full 11 days prior to when we were scheduled to leave Morocco. Through some scrambling we switched around flights and called countless people to help us get organized for our move, proving that these things can be accomplished from anywhere in the world.
Luckily we didn’t have to scramble for a place to live as we moved into one of M’s friends apartments. However, the friend was out of town during our first week, which made settling in a rather humorous affair. We were fairly convinced this friend only had two bowls, as we couldn’t find more anywhere in the kitchen. Well, we were wrong and found a few giant stacks of bowls hidden under a bunch of candles… It took me an entire 5 minutes to figure out how to use the strangest contraption of a can opener that I have ever seen (and considering I have no problem opening cans with a pocketknife that is saying something…). It also took me a rather long time to figure out how to turn on the microwave. For the record, you don’t. You simply turn and keep turning the switch as it adds time to the clock and once you stop turning it eventually starts all on its own. In addition, I have learned how to open the front door to the building. This involves me body checking it with all my weight and force and having the heavy piece of crap very slowly inch open under all of my pressure. Home sweet home… it may take us a while to fully settle in.
The infamous door…
While we are in Berlin, I have started an intensive language course to finally learn German. While I have been making some progress through the use of Duolingo and talking with M, I hope that this will help me advance much more quickly. I took a similar type of course six years ago when I moved to France without speaking any French. I’m already in better shape than during that adventure in language learning, as I can already order beer in German. I proved it at an “American” bar where we were able to watch the Super Bowl. The bar was filled with Germans wearing random NFL sports attire. I’m not sure they understood that the Dolphins, the Eagles, the Packers and the Jets (to name a few) were not, in fact, part of the very disappointing game.
As for the blog, we plan to continue to post our travel stories from the past six months as well as write new stories about our travels throughout Europe. Hopefully I can convince M to post something about the ups and downs of his job search in the near future. I’ve decided to take a break from the Picture of the Day series as I’ve been spending a significant amount of time studying German and adjusting to our new surroundings. After six months of culture shocks, you would think that adjusting would be easy…
Day 193: Statue of Friedrich Jahn in the Volkspark Hasenheide.
Day 194: Shoes left behind at a bus stop in Berlin.
Day 195: The Quadria on top of the Brandenburger Tor.
Day 196: Frankfurter Tor with the Alexanderplatz TV tower in the background.
Day 197: Sun setting behind the alps.
Day 198: People slack lining at the Flugfeld Tempelhof.
Day 199: Ampelmänchen!
Day 200: Water pump in the streets of Tempelhof, Berlin.
Day 186: S-Bahn tracks in Berlin.
Day 187: Platz der Luftbrücke.
Day 188: Grifi near Treptower Park.
Day 189: St. Marienkirche, Alexanderplatz.
Day 190: Office buildings near Potsdamer Platz.
Day 191: Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche
Day 192: Gasometer Schöneberg
Day 179: Kite surfer off the coast of Essaouira, Morocco.
Day 180: Donkey and new buildings between Essaouira and Marrakech, Morocco.
Day 181: Storks on the roof of the royal palace in Marrakech, Morocco.
Day 182: Sheep! (In Germany….)
Day 183: Snowy first night in Berlin.
Day 184: Holocaust memorial in Berlin.
Day 185: On the way to watch the Superbowl in an American sports bar in Berlin.
Day 165: Dracula’s castle!
Day 166: Parliament building in Bucharest.
Day 167: Palatul de Justitie at night from the hostel balcony.
Day 168: Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest.
Day 169: Cologne Cathedral.
Day 170: Wandering along the Rhein in Cologne.
Day 171: Side street in the old part of Marrakech.
Day 158: Amsterdam light festival 2015.
Day 159: Early travel days are sometimes worth it…
Day 160: Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Day 161: Feeding the ducks in the small unfrozen part of the pond.
Day 162: Sunsetting over Sibiu, Romania.
Day 163: Steam Engine Museum in Sibiu, Romania.
Day 164: Rainy walking street at night in Brasov, Romania.
Day 151: Germany has a lot of churches…
Day 152: Light show at the Edersee dam.
Day 153: Shooting off the first fire works… …slightly early.
Day 154: Fire works turning the sky over the fire station bright red.
Day 155: Wind turbines on the way to the Netherlands.
Day 156: Reflections in the Ghent channels at night.
Day 175: The Atomium against the evening sky.
Day 144: Sheep!! (J loves to feed the sheep…)
Day 145: Winter market in Marburg, Germany.
Day 146: Hiking around the German countryside.
Day 147: Clouds!
Day 148: The start of winter.
Day 149: Snow!
Day 150: Hiking through fresh powder!