fourth trimester

“Meeting you was like listening to a song for the first time and knowing it would be my favorite.”

The fourth trimester. These first three months with Indra were pretty incredible. After that first month at home we took her out into the world. Okay, maybe not the world but our little corner of it, and it was exciting. Everything was a new adventure to be experienced for the first time. We were reminded how the world looks through a child’s eyes. We introduced Indra to our family and friends and complete strangers. It took some getting used to, having random people stopping to chat all the time – but I’ve come to love it. What ground is more common and an immediate connection than children.img_0993img_0765Indra's first month (3)-1IMG_0926-1Indra's first month (2)-1Indra's first month (5)-1Indra's first month (10)-1
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Our first foray out in a month – celebrating my birthday with a cafe, walk along the river and a trip to Target.

img_8535img_8538img_8545Going to lunch with Nana and Papa.img_8591One month old – how can that be?img_9807-1img_0948img_9562-1-collage-1After two weeks of paternity leave Ezra went back to work. There are ideal jobs and then, drag-yourself-out-of-bed-with-dread jobs. This job was the latter. So we were giddy with joy when, serendipitously, the opportunity to leave came. Yes, we were a little nervous to have a new baby and both be unemployed. But we are masters of frugality, and also, if there ever is a time to use credit cards, now was that time. The next month-and-a-half had its stress while Ez looked for a new role, but most mornings he’d spend a couple hours with Indra and let me sleep. He could actually be home for dinners and the weekends were mostly ours. It was beautiful how the timing happened. Those days were fleeting and precious. The memories are already a little hazy, but were so special, and we were lucky to have so much time together.img_8571Celebrating Ez’s 40th with family, bars, breweries and a walk.
img_0975img_8602 img_8610Daddy’s girlimg_8620 img_8632-collageSo many hours spent looking at this sweet face.
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img_1012First time walking along the trail to the grocery store. Only a minimal amount of crying. It felt like a mom win! img_1015This was the first time it felt like she was holding onto me. It deserved a grainy picture, right?img_1017-1img_8654Wanting desperately to remember all her sweet and silly faces.img_1021-collageimg_8656img_8661 img_1072-movEverything Indra did was important to us. At a week we were surprised when she found her thumb and started smiling. We gave her her first bath around three weeks. I noticed she started touching me more while nursing and pushing off of me with her little feet. We tried a pacifier but to no avail. We would continue trying and she would continue to resist. Then there was the bottle, which like the pacifier, was met with skepticism. Why take a bottle when you can get it straight from the tap?img_1074At about four weeks we thought we saw her first real awake smile. Followed by a steady stream that seems to never stop.
img_1088Except for when it does!img_8707-collage img_1091img_8713-collageLabor Day at the beach with family.
img_8723Happy little Buddha baby.img_1099So many precious hours spent holding and rocking this little being.
img_8768img_8786-collageWatching her puffins.img_1121 img_1128Our attempt to keep her warm while bathing always made her look a little like a friar or Leonardo da Vinci. She didn’t seem to mind.img_8754-collageGoing out as a family I felt proud and happy, and slightly overwhelmed figuring out all the ins-and-outs of parenting… and all this baby gear. There was a bit of anxiousness navigating the new role, but like anything, it just took a little time to gain confidence.  We started venturing a little further afield.img_8836img_8840img_1141

We discovered that she really didn’t like the being in the carseat. Perhaps there is nothing more stressful for a new mom than not having the ability to immediately pick up their crying baby. I would frantically pull over and get in the backseat to nurse, and start sobbing too. If there’s one goal I have, it’s for Indra to trust me. When she needs me, I always want to be available and present. This foundation is built young. What this means in terms of my actions, will of course morph over the years. However, right now, when she cries – I respond. 
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img_1140Every baby is so different and we were learning about ours.img_8879She has a spirit that immediately struck us as special (we are unabashedly biased). She was so aware right from the moment she arrived. Being a first time mom you don’t know what makes your baby unique, you don’t have anything to compare it to. Everyone who meets her, or just walks by for that matter, stops and comments on how aware she is. How could she be so young and taking everything in that way? She is a sweet little girl that would prefer to be held at all times, snuggling in, touching and smiling up at you. She has a smile for everyone – it’s an automatic reflex. Even when overly tired – if you smile at her, she will reward you with one back. Except when in the aforementioned carseat, of course.

img_8888 Walking with auntie Jill and Levi.img_1197img_8898-collageimg_9134I hadn’t given a ton of thought to what our sleeping arrangement would be, but our little snuggler decided for us. And we would resume “the position” every nap and every night.

img_9151img_9157img_9174 img_9172Two months!
img_9256First Annual Apple Orchard trip.IMG_9720img_9744img_9358-collageimg_9393img_9794img_9406At about six weeks we noticed her cooing and babbling, and we thought we heard her laugh in her sleep. She was getting strong and already trying to sit up in her chair and holding her head up. She’s started following people with her eyes. We started hearing her laugh – all the time. She’s so happy. 
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img_9420img_9437img_1291She started experimenting with her sounds and likes having conversations. She babbles, I talk, then she babbles some more. She cries less, and instead, is using different sounds to try and express what she wants. She resists tummy-time so we started working on it more. A baby cobra started to emerge – although mastery is still far off. img_1311-collageA possible role for Ez at the Mayo Clinic had us heading to Rochester to check out the town. I prepared for the arduous journey with new carseat bling and putting on a brave face. We had an interlude with horrible gasping sobs and me on the side of the highway bouncing my baby. Indra – 1; Parents – 0.

img_1350img_1348img_9487img_9491Every morning Ez would take a picture of Indra before heading out for work or a job interview. We are usually assuming the position.img_9499img_9526So much love from her cousins!img_9532Levi reminiscing about his baby days.img_9536Our two year wedding anniversary was spent sharing our birth story with the new birth class. I may have rambled, shared too much information and teared up. Maybe, but who’s to say? We followed this up with drinks and apps… and our two-year-old frozen wedding cake that my parents wanted out of their freezer.
img_9548img_9553img_9556A former boss offered Ezra a position in Alexandria. With a new baby who hates the car, why not keep considering jobs so far away? Trying to prepare and avoid the inevitable cries – I spend a good half hour getting Indra to sleep before we set out. My initial reaction to the job in Alex, “no.”

img_9561But it was pretty on this perfect fall day. And the job ended up being low-stress and family friendly, which ended up with a “yes.”img_9568 img_9569-collageAnother beautiful fall day before the winter hits. A walk along the path to get coffee, the bookstore and pizza. This will forever stay in my mind as one of life’s perfect days.img_1394img_9578Facetime with grandma and grandpa.img_9582img_9617-collageSo happy!img_9687-collageDebate parties with the Bjorholm/Eash clan.img_9753-collageimg_1444-collageAt about 12 weeks we saw Indra grab her feet and started laughing when I would nuzzle her neck and belly. It seems like she was trying to touch me now and would watch my mouth. Occasionally she wouldn’t cry in the car and that felt like a milestone, and also like she was growing up. Getting ready to shop with Nana.img_1448img_9890Heading to Stillwater for the Harvest Fest. Really we just want to see the huge pumpkin get smashed.
img_9902img_9922img_9949-collageimg_9973img_9983She started getting really good at entertaining herself. She’d play under her gym, once I noticed she was under there for almost an hour. She loved her zebra, and it looked like she actually started holding it. She loved watching me eat. Eating pineapple became the most fascinating thing. It’s like all of a sudden her eyes really opened. She noticed Diesel and the feathers moving over her changing table. She grasped at things I’d give her.

img_1474img_1494img_0026img_1478img_1503Looking back at these pictures I’m struck by how fast this all went. How aware and very young she was. How her silly personality and calm disposition and serious intensity started to become apparent.img_1517Not quite ready to retire the bassinet. Even though she hardly slept in it (and outgrew it fast), I’m not quite ready for her to be so grown up.img_0042No toys? Well, here’s a pinecone.img_1535img_0050img_0056-2Three month pictures. A little tired so smiles were harder to come by.img_0070Until we lost the pants!img_0080Mom life = blowouts and forgetting extra clothes.img_0083Pumpkin-patching.img_0088Three-months – such a big girl!  img_1555Already nostalgic for these early days.img_0283-collageimg_1554This pretty much sums up the magical fourth trimester.img_9562

sitting moon

“Let your life being a painting, let you life be a poem.” – Osho

The month following birth I observed sitting moon. Four weeks that were the best gift I could’ve ever given myself. Four weeks of staying home and adjusting to motherhood, resting and healing and bonding with this little human that was now in our lives. The only exception was Indra’s doctor appointments. Otherwise, we only accepted a few visitors. I rested and stayed warm, ate healing foods and cuddled with our little darling. I’m lucky to have such a supportive partner in Ezra. Without him, this time would not have been possible. In this month we really became a family and learned so much more about each other.

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The weeks after childbirth were a fragile and transformative time. I felt fierce and soft – I spent almost every minute with her cradled in my arms. There were things I was really unprepared for, I was surprised in how giving birth to Indra, I also gave birth to a new self.

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Eventually at my six week check up I asked my midwife about all the emotions I was feeling. She said being a mother was like having “everything a little closer to the surface.” I was thinking a lot about my mortality. No longer was I worrying about myself for my own sake, I would sit and rock her and think about how I would only know her so long. That I would miss out on her life and would find tears streaming down my face. Being a mother has made me feel in the present like never before. I will look at her face sleeping, or Ezra dancing with her, or I’ll be singing a song to her, and I’m so in love with each moment. I know that someday I’ll look back at how perfect this time was, and I feel a sense of nostalgia now, for the moment while I’m living it. Being a mother feels like a spiritual door has opened. It is a living meditation.

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I weep sweet tears so often that I asked my sister-in-law about it once, worrying that maybe I was depressed. She said, “no, you’re just a mother.” This gave me a lot of comfort knowing I’m not alone in my feelings. I love my daughter so much I feel love radiate out of me – like I could break open. It makes me feel so vulnerable, to have this type of love. It’s given life so much more meaning. Ezra and I say we can’t believe how wonderful being a parent is. We can’t believe people didn’t talk about it or pressure us more to have kids. It’s like the best kept secret, although apparently, its really no secret. Or maybe being parents just suits us particularly well.

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Having a daughter makes me think about the world and her place in it. I can’t hear the news or stories in the same way anymore, I’m bothered to my core. I think about the lessons I want to instill in her. How to be trusting and kind while also being strong and self-reliant. I think about my relationship with my own mother. Where we went wrong and what we did well. How will she look at me, what example do I want to set and how can I be better. I think about her in every decision I make. Being a girl means there will always be extra cautions and more to fight for. I want her to grow up feeling valued and confident and useful, and for her to feel her life has purpose. I want to give her everything.

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Looking back at this time with her is a blur. I just remember sitting with her and studying her face. Being up at night in the soft glow of the lamp nursing and rocking and reading. It all went so fast and I suppose that will continue. If I never do anything else I am happy for this time – to be Indra’s mama. And my wish for her is that she will live her life without fear and full of wonder and be happy and fulfilled.
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Earthside 

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu

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The morning of July 15th I woke early after a short and poor night sleep. It was on my mind to get to bed earlier to be rested for labor. But sleep had been elusive. I was two days past my guess date and feeling a little melancholy. I set out for an early morning walk around Bass Lake and tried not to feel down. Other women in my birth class had started having their babies and I was ready and wanted mine. As I walked, I talked to the babe, referring to him by the name we’d picked. I rubbed my stomach and told him I was ready – we loved him, please join us when he was ready. I went back up to our apartment and read a few books to my belly. This was not something I often did, but was feeling weepy and sad. I thought about taking a nap and instead made an acupuncture appointment.

Xong my acupuncturist wasn’t in that day so I saw another doctor. She didn’t know me, and was surprised when I came in asking for help inducing labor, armed with my Zuo Yuetzi books, and asking for specific herbal formulas. She hadn’t been with me thru my last trimester. She mentioned I was only two days late and may need to come back a couple more times next week. Did I still want the treatment? I was confused. Yes, why else was I there? Afterwards I left a little discouraged and went home to work on one of my continuing education courses, called Nourishing the Womb. I was learning about everything I could’ve done in my pregnancy from a Chinese medicine point of view – much of which I hadn’t done. I was also being educated on everything that could go wrong. Dismayed, and now anxious, I stopped the course and decided not to continue until after the the birth.

Ez came home and tried to cheer me up. It was a Friday, and with the weekend ahead of us, we went to Whole Foods for snacks. Postpartum I vowed a strict healthy diet and wanted to get in one more scone (a weird pregnancy obsession – as well as yogurt with granola and tons of fruit) and maybe a piece of cake. While perusing the baked goods I felt something different. Almost a heaviness in my uterus. It didn’t hurt so I tried not to focus on it. Next stop, the liquor store for Ez. I decided to pick up some fake beer, tempting labor to start. Because who else but a pregnant woman would chose to drink that swill?

As soon as we arrived home I felt the strange sensation again. This time a little stronger and I mentioned it to Ez. The first time had been around 8:30 pm and now it was 9:00. I took a shower, ate and waited to see if it would continue over the next couple hours. At 11:00 I was pretty sure this was the real deal and texted our doula, Ellee, to let her know things were starting.

I tried to sleep but it was in vain. I went into the tub, laid down, sat on the exercise ball – repeat, repeat, repeat. Eventually around 5:00 in the morning Ez noticed I wasn’t in bed and found me in the bath. I hadn’t woken him knowing labor would be long and now was the time to rest. We started timing the surges, and although a little erratic, they’d been about 5 minutes apart for about an hour. I was uncomfortable from back labor and when we called Ellee at 6:00 she told me to crawl around on my hands and knees. She said she’d come whenever I felt I needed her. Ezra was such a wonderful support, and I was doing pretty good on my own, so I continued to labor most of the morning on all fours – clutching a comb in each hand. Digging the teeth into my palms was a trick we learned in our birth class. While it didn’t help with pain, it was a distraction, and I became oddly attached to them. A little while later we called the birth center to see what we should do. Again I was told to crawl and to get our doula there. I didn’t know at the time, but all this crawling was to encourage the baby to turn, which was the cause of the back pain. Eventually it worked.

Ellee was filling in for her friend at the hospital which made me a little worried. She said she’d come as soon as she could and to eat. I’d only eaten a popsicle and some fruit – she scolded me. Ez gave me yogurt with honey and I worked on getting a protein bar down over the next six hours. Around 3:30 Ellee arrived and everything started to feel a little more real. She had me crawl and sit backwards on the toilet through a few contractions. This brought a new intensity and I found myself trying to focus my energy down and open instead of up and contracted. I tried to watch the sensations without reacting, but this was a challenge. I found my body reacting in a primal way without concern for what my mind was trying observe. Concerned by how little I’d slept the past couple days, Ellee wanted me to rest. Contractions were coming faster at this point, about every three minutes, and she wanted to slow them down. Ez and I laid together in bed and I dozed a few minutes here and there. It was a sweet respite and later Ellee said she wished she’d taken a picture of us (I wished she had too), Ezra holding me, me holding our baby. Ellee was by my side occasionally soothing me and just a comforting presence. At this point I was pretty tired and wanted to feel like I was progressing. Ellee helped to keep me focused and at home for another couple hours. A little before 6:00 she said I had that look in my eyes – I was ready to be where I’d have my baby. I was happy to hear those words. It was wonderful to labor at home for so long in privacy and relative comfort, but it was going on 20+ hours and I wanted a change. I’d found the first 12-15 hours almost enjoyable – it was exciting. I was experiencing this crazy thing my body was made for. But I was now reaching a point of exhaustion and feeling a little despondent.

Ez pulled the car out front and I was thankful to see no one in the halls or elevator. Piling in the backseat there were a few guys out on one of the balconies. I couldn’t help but wonder what they must be thinking. I guessed they were happy not to be me! The drive to the birth center felt like an eternity. Clutching a pillow and hanging awkwardly over the backseat, I hoped no one could see me. In one of our prenatal visits Ellee asked if I like to be touched or a more hands off approach when I didn’t feel well? Ez put it perfectly – I’m like a cat who wants a dark corner and to be left alone. So being out in the sunshine, contracting in traffic, was sort of my nightmare.

Once we arrived at the birth center I met Mary, the midwife-on-call. I’d met her husband a few weeks earlier when he taught me how to install our carseat. They were an inspiring couple that had lived and worked in the Philippines and India while raising their boys. They were the sort of parents that Ez and I hope to be – having meaningful life experiences and adventures, while also showing their children another way to live.

Mary examined me (the last time had been at 15 weeks) and asked if I wanted to know how dilated I was. The birth center’s standard procedures were exactly what I wanted – so my birth plan was pretty generic. Originally I didn’t want to know, in case it was discouraging. But honestly, I also just felt I should put something on my birth plan and didn’t care all that much.  So I told them to tell me – I was 7 cm, this was encouraging. Ellee didn’t tell me then, but she’d been guessing I was 6 cm. My membranes were still intact and we used a Doppler for the first time. They were readying the tub when I felt a gush of water. I couldn’t see it, but imagined it looked as comical as it felt.

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Once in the tub it got a little confusing. Mary told Leah, the nurse-on-call, to come in. Ellee said if I felt like I needed to push I could try. So I pushed but it didn’t feel productive. They had me get out of the tub and said I could prop my belly in a sling to help with positioning the baby. At this point things were getting intense. Looking back I must have been transitioning. I knew I didn’t want to do this sling thing. So I laid in bed on my side with a bolster. Did I mention it was intense? I asked to try nitrous but found out why many women don’t like it. It takes awhile to find a rhythm and only works while you, yourself, hold the mask to your face. It felt like breathing through a scuba mask and it made me feel panicky – I thought I might hyperventilate. I ended up throwing it to the ground and getting back on my hands and knees. It’s supposed to take away the perception of pain, not the pain itself, but it threw me off. After trying it I was more motivated. I didn’t have it in the back of my mind as a crutch anymore. It was just me and I could do this – I had to. This was the reason I changed to a birth center.

They had me sit backwards on the toilet again. I didn’t want to, but said okay anyway, I was willing to do anything to help things progress. Using the back of a metal spatula, Mary looked every now-and-then to see if the babe was crowning. Nope nothing. She checked me again and said I was fully dilated except for just a little lip of my cervix. If I wanted she could push it aside. Again, I was sure I didn’t want her to do this, but instead I found myself telling her okay. I found myself saying “oww, oww, oww, oww.” They commented on how calm and polite I was – one of the calmest laboring women they’d had. I’m sure this was their way to make me feel good – but it worked, and somewhere in the back of my mind it made me feel capable.

Finally I felt like I needed to push, I was ready!  Back in the tub I go – fully dilated. It was go time. One of my friends told me pushing felt like reverse throwing up, and in the middle of one, I thought she was exactly right. It took a few waves to get the feel for how was most effective, but once I got it, I wanted to do it. I’d heard many women liked pushing. I wouldn’t say I was one of them. I was exhausted and wanted to be finished. But mentally I was thinking this might just never end. My back still hurt so I couldn’t lay against the tub and didn’t want to be on all fours. So I kneeled, and with each surge I tried to breath my baby down and into the world. Mary told me to feel for the head, but there was nothing at first. Then what I felt was strange, softer than I expected, so I wasn’t sure. When I heard Mary tell Ezra to get the camera (which was not charged and his phone died – luckily Ellee took these few for us) it was a surprise to me. I’d been bracing myself for each moment not thinking about the next. Not sure how I’d keep doing this while feeling capable all at the same time.

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Pushing was this strange almost out of body experience. I don’t remember if it hurt. I just remember it felt like harnessing some universal power that thundered through my body as the head descended down the birth canal. The head crowned and then retreated back in. It was a very strange sensation. Another push and the head was out. I remember feeling overwhelmed at the thought of having to keep doing this, but it all happened so quickly. I don’t even really remember the final push. At 10:10 pm Mary caught our baby and I lay back and held this special little being to my chest. Ezra wanted to announce the sex. The umbilical cord and a towel were in the way, he was looking around this and that and said, “a girl?” I was utterly confused by the way he said it, like he was unsure. We’d been guessing it was a boy. I was so shocked – we had a daughter! I kissed her sweet head and just wanted to know she was healthy. Trying to look at her while keeping her close all at once. Ez and I looked at each other and couldn’t believe it, a little girl. And just like that we had our little Indra Eloise.

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Immediately Indra cried – her day had been challenging too. We realized just how swollen her little face was only days later once it subsided. We sat in the tub and after 7 minutes her cord was still pulsing a little so I asked to wait. I wanted her to have every last drop of blood – it was her birth right. So we waited and then Ezra cut the cord. At the time I didn’t think about it, it was much later when it occurred to me – she would never be part of me again.img_8034

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Out of the tub I was shaky and cold, and was helped to the bed to deliver my placenta (a very unusual placenta which Ellee dried and encapsulated). They massaged my uterus and stitched and cleaned me up. Meanwhile Ez held our daughter and she initiated him into fatherhood by pooping on him three times, then once on me. Indra was healthy and weighed in at 8 pounds 10 ounces and 20 inches long. We tried nursing, with a lot of helping hands, and Indra’s strong instinct to suck (and not a very good latch), it seemed like one more obstacle but we’d figure it out in time. Afterall, neither of us had done this before. Leah drew us an herbal bath and the two of us got back in, mother and daughter, and soaked together. The conclusion to the best day of my life.

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At 2:00 in the morning, just four hours after her birth, we left for home in a downpour. We realized in the middle of it all there was a storm. It felt like a beautiful tribute to our little Indra who was the deity of thunder, lightening, storms and rain. She entered our lives and the world with an energy that would influence our path forever. I bore my greatest teacher.

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maternity photos

“When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come.” – Leonardo da Vinci

I am at the pinnacle of my pregnancy heading towards what I suspect will be the most spectacular moment in this life. Soon I am crossing over the precipice to become a mother. I have spent my pregnancy in relative ease and am grateful for the sheer experience of it. I want to capture some of the feelings before I forget them, as I’m sure it will fade with the new tasks of motherhood. 

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My first signs of pregnancy were just a little weepiness followed with a bout of queasiness at a fish market. Soon after I felt a to-the-bone tiredness but that faded by the end of the first trimester. I didn’t realize I was pregnant until about 2 months in – the night before a month-long meditation retreat. I was in a state of disbelief with how fortunate we were that this pregnancy happened so quickly – we had only tried once. I had hoped to be pregnant on this retreat and marvelled at how it’d happened just as we’d wished. I immediately started preparing my body and my mindset shifted. Nothing was just about me anymore and I welcomed it whole-heartedly. img_6188earth img_6194bw img_6201air img_6213edit img_6216bw img_6227bw img_6234bw

As my belly was just beginning to swell around the 15th and 16th week mark I thought I felt movement. I’d been on the watch for it but wasn’t sure if it was just my imagination. By the 18th week I was fairly confidant and by the end of the 19th week Ezra thought he could feel the baby too. Around this time our little babe was moving regularly, mostly at night, but now also in the morning. At 22 wks Ez finally felt a good swift kick. Strangers were just starting to comment on my pregnancy and it made me happy that my transformation was now obvious. 

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At 23 weeks, I wanted to switch from a hospital to a birth center for delivery. Thus far I had declined anything more than weight checks, routine blood work and the use of a fetoscope. So while I had not wished to have an ultrasound it became necessary to be sure we were low risk. It was this ultrasound that finally made the baby seem real. To see it move and watch the heartbeat, even though I’d still not heard it, was surreal. Afterwards I bought my own fetoscope so I could hear the fluttering anytime I wanted.  The second trimester is called the honeymoon period of pregnancy and I felt strong and healthy. Some nights I felt a little restlessness in my leg which was an annoyance, but otherwise it was all good and the baby kept growing. img_6365bw img_6370

 Nearing the end of this pregnancy I started to feel more discomfort. Normal movements became more of an effort. Walking was tiresome and my feet hurt. I found myself bumping my belly into things forgetting how large it’d gotten. I would sleep with 3-4 pillows to find some comfort, propping up this part to keep that bit at a better angle. Anytime I’d want to turn over I’d have to mentally brace myself for the extra exertion. Normally a late eater I had to give myself 5 hours before bed to digest. Otherwise I’d bolt upright multiple times, my last meal threatening to come back up.
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My belly was full and hard and we were both running out of room those last weeks. I’d feel the little butt under my right ribs and feet kick off to the left. Hands would flutter by my pelvis and I felt the bambino’s hiccups more regularly. There were some very strong movements a week before my due date and it made me worried. I broke out the fetoscope to make sure it wasn’t now breech. During this time I talked to the baby more and played music – pop seemed to get the most action. I kept massaging my big belly and started to feel more and more connected. We’d gotten it into our heads we were having a boy and focused our energy on narrowing down those names. Girl names came more easily and we decided on one as a backup, just in case. img_6415bw img_6438bw img_6456bw

I was emotional that last trimester. I knew life was about to change and was excited for it but also a little sad that this phase was about to end. I loved being pregnant and perhaps realized it even more afterwards. It was a beautiful time in my life. A golden moment that passed quickly. img_6462bw

spring showers

“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abe Lincoln

Back in Minnesota I was adjusting my attitude towards the idea of living in the Midwest. I’ve known disappointment plenty of times in my life but for some reason this was especially difficult for me. Not normally a crier, this became a new part-time hobby. Looking for apartments made me cry. Ezra accepting job interviews made me cry. It wouldn’t take much to set me off. Not wanting to be so affected by my emotions I made a conscious effort to shift my attitude and short-term (dear god please) expectations. 

So we found an apartment, I set up a little balcony garden and enjoyed the pool once it was warm enough. I dove into finishing my Shiatsu CEs to keep up my certification, and we went thru our garage and sold, donated and organized much of what was in storage collecting dust. And I started to nest in our little one bedroom abode.

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I started shifting my thoughts towards motherhood. We took a birth class that was incredibly eye opening and transformative in our preparation for childbirth. It was this class that convinced me to switch my care to the MN Birth Center. Back in January was the first time we attempted orientation, but there was a fire alarm that set off the sprinklers and thus it was cancelled. The second time we got a flat tire on the way. For awhile I gave up on it thinking maybe these were signs. Our class made me realize I should give it one more try and it ended up being one of best decisions I’ve ever made. This was where my wishes would align with the care I would receive. So while I hadn’t planned to get one – I scheduled an ultrasound and sent all my records to show we were low risk. We wanted minimal intervention and so at 23 weeks we saw the baby for the first time and watched the heart beating. Forgoing dopplers for fetoscope, we’d still not heard the heartbeat. So it was a surreal and profound moment. There really was a baby in there and I was a mother.

Twenty-three weeks

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In Iowa with the original mother.img_7254

Being silly!img_7427 img_7431img_1186

On the upside of being in the Twin Cities (and if I’m being fair there are many) was being around family who was very supportive and excited for us. We visited Ez’s parents a couple times and my sister for Easter.

What happens when Uncle Ez comes for a visit.

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Twenty-six weeks

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Birthday for Soren!

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 Our families threw a couple of fun showers with all the silly games and tasty treats. Everyone made us feel so special and cared for. We received so much support and gifts for the babe. My sister calls it the modern day equivalent to living in a village – looking out for the mother-to-be. I love thinking of it this way. 

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What happens when a boy attends an all girl shower.

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My parents had wanted to take us out for an engagement dinner back in the day, but because we had a very short engagement it never happened. So instead a year-and-a-half later they took us all out to celebrate the baby. It’s not often that we’re all together!

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The kids loved the “baby sake,” otherwise known as Sprite.

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Listening with my fetoscope to the baby’s heartbeat.

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Twenty-nine weeks

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Another shower with Iowa family!

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Spring has sprung!

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View behind our apartment. We literally live on the other side of the tracks.

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Our dear friend Chris (affectionately known as AK47) whom we met in Malawi arrived back to the US and his first stop was in Minneapolis for a conference. So very serendipitous how to world works some times. So he stayed with us for a night and we heard about the rest of his travels and future plans.

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Always a pleasure to hang with my nephews and stuff our faces with frozen yogurt. Indulging my pregnancy sweet tooth.

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Birthdays and the beginning of summer!

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There are no words needed for this picture. This is just how Levi rolls.img_7760

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Thirty-three weeks

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One more trip to Champaign before the baby comes. Memorial day weekend! I was feeling particularly lazy on this trip and took lots of naps. We did make it to the lake but you wouldn’t catch me swimming in this freezing water. Kids are crazy!

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Thirty-four weeks

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Soren’s 5th grade graduation!!

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My Aunt asked to take a few maternity pictures of us. We were given quite the photo shoot.

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Thirty-five weeks

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Thirty-six weeks

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Thirty-seven weeks

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While it was a hard few months for both of us transitioning in so many emotional and physical ways (and trying to be supportive and positive for Ez who was working a crazy 75 hours a week), it was also an incredibly spiritual time. It was a time to practice acceptance and gratitude. I may not have always done this with grace but I made an effort to be happy. After all, I had a special being growing in me, a loving family, my health and the ability to transform my thoughts. If only I’d try.

Thirty-eight weeks

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Thirty-nine weeks

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Preparing for Zuo Yuezi (aka: Sitting Moon). Cooking up congee, soups and healing herbal decoctions for the month after labor.

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Three days to go…

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Just waiting now…

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July 15th – two days late and the night I go into labor

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road trippin’ usa

“I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” – Jack Kerouac

After the holidays and visits back-and-forth between Minnesota and Iowa, we were in the mood for a road trip. Either that or, let’s be frank, we were reminded how much we detest Midwest winters. So we decided to hit the road. We’d have a little fun in warmer climates and potentially job hunt in sunnier cities. We would try to find a new home before our little bambino arrived.

All aboard!
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We may be Yankees but we have a love for the South. The was our first bonefide cross-country trip together. So with Diesel in tow (in a pimped out back seat I may add) we started towards Louisiana with a quick stop thru Kansas City and Memphis and kept south down the old Mississippi River road.

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Dangers of the South: Moon shine, Elvis and me with a gun.
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We’ve never met a diner we didn’t like. Who cares if the tea is Lipton and the creamer is oil.

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Fifteen weeks

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A week in New Orleans because no trip south is worth skipping Creole Country. We were right in time for some pre-Mardi Gras festivities.

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New Orleans to Austin was rich with Spanish moss and Southern charm. Austin was a top contender for cities of interest and so we scouted for potential neighborhoods. But no trip to Austin is complete without listening to plenty of music and taking in the quirkiness that keeps the city weird.
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Seventeen weeks

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Onwards through cute little towns, rolling countryside and the Carlsbad Caverns into New Mexico to visit Ez’s grandad Harry and his wife Roe. Ez hadn’t seen them in ten years. We almost ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere, but just squeaked by with 0.1 gallons to spare. Spending time with Henry and Ro made the whole trip worthwhile. We caught up, watched footfall, visited an Uranium mining museum and I learned about Ro’s Navajo heritage. They’re all such special people and it was hard to move on and say good bye.

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Next we headed towards the West coast with plenty more stops to see family in Arizona and California.

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Eighteen weeks

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We made a last minute decision to detour to San Diego to see my cousins. I had never really been into Southern California but once we arrived I quickly changed my mind. What the hell had I been thinking? It was fabulous! We scouted out neighborhoods in SD before heading up the coast thru the salad bowl and into Monterey. Ez boarded a flight back to Austin for an interview and I vegged out in our hotel room probably watching all the political debates. We would plan our days around being checked-in, with food and drink, and ready for the spectacle to begin.

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Once we got further north we realized it wasn’t for us. I’ve romanticized Northern California because of all my great visits to see Sam and Robb. But without them there it just seemed too expensive, too congested and let’s be honest – a little too chilly.
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Nineteen weeks

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So we bought tickets from Portland to Hawaii and made this road trip air bound. On our drive north we met our friend Julia in Salem for dinner and checked out the University in Coralville for Ez. Then we packed up Diesel and guiltily sent him off to the vet to be boarded.

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Twenty weeks

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One week on Oahu ignited our fire to move back. Ez met with recruiters and we looked at apartments and our time was spent mostly working with little play. Well, me and my big belly hit the beach a couple times. IMG_6778 IMG_6784 IMG_6809 IMG_6830 IMG_6880 IMG_6905

Twenty-one weeks

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Back to the mainland, Portland was a gloomy bummer. We should have checked it out but by this point our couple week trip had turned into two months. We were ready to head home and decided a move wasn’t worth it if winters would still be spent mainly indoors. So on we went thru beautiful Montana, hit up the Black Hills, Mt Rushmore and Wall Drug – and thanked God we didn’t live in South Dakota.

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Twenty-two weeks

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In the end Ez was offered the job in Austin which would place us in the UK. I was worried about moving late in my pregnancy and feeling isolated. We decided to hold out for something in Hawaii, but by the beginning of my third trimester nothing was happening quickly enough. So with a not-so-pleasant attitude on my part we packed it in, at least until after the baby was born. We’d been bouncing around the country staying at Motel 6’s and our parents’ houses for months. We needed a home, a midwife – something solid to start preparing for this next big step.

What a trooper – super cat!

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We’re home!

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roof of the world

“Silence is an answer too.”

We came back to Nepal with the sole purpose of spending a month back at the Kopan Monastery in a retreat known as the November Course. We arrived on the last night of Diwali and could see the city lit up from the dark sky. This was unusual in part due to routine electric outages and the fuel crisis which were pervading and further depressing the country. Add this to the devastation from the earthquake and you have a disaster. So it was surprising but lovely to see that Nepalis were still able to find a way to celebrate.

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Arriving back in Nepal felt like a breath of fresh air. If you’ve ever been to Kathmandu, this is a funny statement because the air is thick with pollution. You can never escape the veil of dust and fumes. But immediately, I’m struck by how soft people talk and their calm and (no it’s not everyone) how peaceful people seem in their lives of faith and purpose and devotion. I felt self-conscious and brash and loud and over-anxious. I felt a little lost. When we were last here we’d been traveling for over a year and I had settled into a routine of living a simple life and I suppose a calm. What a juxtaposition – I hadn’t realized how much of that feeling I’d lost.

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With one day before our class we walked around Boudha and gathered supplies and warm clothes to get us thru the month in the cooler climate and early mornings. That night as I was sharing a beer with Ez is occurred to me that maybe I should take a pregnancy test. We had just started trying and I assumed it would take some time, but little pieces of the last few weeks starting clicking in to place. The extra emotions, the tiredness, the nausea I felt at the fish market in Dubai. In a sort of disbelief I went into the bathroom, took the test and walked out with what looked like a positive result. But it wasn’t totally clear. The next morning I took it again with the same result, but this time feeling it was positive.

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When we planned this recent trip we had discussed volunteering and trying to get pregnant before going to the monastery. I felt like we called this into being by simply speaking the wish aloud and in our hearts. It felt surreal and like an omen that the beginning of this new little life would be in the surrounds of such a peaceful setting. I had new inspiration to work on my myself – to align my mind with my heart and prepare for what changes lay ahead.

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Our time at the monastery was deeply personal and I don’t wish to belittle it with quips or stories or try to make it or myself sound more grand and spiritual that it was. It was a month of tough work, reflection, boredom, tiredness and overall beauty. I took refuge at Kopan in every sense of the word. And I felt grateful for having my life intersect with so many new intentional people.

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We often say this baby must have good karma to have been conceived in Malawi while we were doing work we loved and found meaningful. Then being in the presence and energy of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings. I feel so grateful that my baby spent some of it’s first weeks in such a powerful spiritual place. As LZR (what Ez and I call him for short) would say “wow wow wow wow, amazing amazing amazing.” Or something to that effect anyway.

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A month passed quickly and as we said our goodbyes there was a sadness but also excitement as we headed to a clinic to finally confirm the pregnancy. When the results came back I cried, and I felt a closeness to Ezra as we hugged for what was one of the first times this past month. We were adjusting back to a life outside a monastery, reconnecting with each other and now connecting with this little being growing inside my belly.

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We spent our last few days in Kathmandu with our dear friend Bill. We met him in the Philippines and now spent time with him here walking around and catching up on life and trying not to get run over or run down by all the traffic. And then we readied ourselves to go back home. The next step unknown.

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dubai

“The words you speak become the house you live in.” – Hafiz

It seems a little silly to write a blog about Dubai considering we were only there for about 36 hours. However, there is a good chance we will never go back and so I would like to at least remember what we saw. We arrived at the crack of dawn and ended up wandering around waiting to check into our hotel for a much needed nap. When we finally ventured out we saw a bit of the old town and walked along the creek. We stopped for a coffee and an orange basil juice concoction while watching the old boats scoot thru the canal. We stopped for a thali at an Indian restaurant and later followed it up with our old standby – the falafel.

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We were both in a funk. I had pushed making our couple hour layover into a couple day layover, but we were both so tired we were finding it hard to enjoy. My impression of Dubai was a meeting of the old and the new, moreover the new pushing out the old. It felt a bit like one huge shopping complex. And malls they had. Malls with ice rinks and aquariums and skiing. Within the glass air-conditioned skyways you could look out and see the the palms and construction below. All that construction has produced some impressive feats – the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab are what immediately come to mind. IMG_2918 IMG_2920 IMG_2924 IMG_2925 IMG_2926 IMG_2933 IMG_2937 IMG_2955

After a somewhat lackluster day we found a bar, Trader Vic’s no less, and settled in for a couple strong cocktails. This helped to shake off some of the malaise I’d been feeling all day. Tiredness and an extra sensitivity seemed to be following me. We were heading to Nepal for a month long meditation retreat – might as well indulge once before a month of abstaining.

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Ezra’s best creepy look?IMG_3005

The next morning we went for more of the tradition than the flash. A walk to the fish market was mostly memorable for the queasiness the smell induced. Then the gold souk and an old historical house. Of course what trip would be complete without a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee before hitting up the airport.
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Sorry, no souvenirs were bought from this souk.

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Seriously, what airport has Rolex clocks?

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Goodbye Dubai.

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winelands

“Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.” – Aristophanes

We decided to get out of town and spent a few days in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. When you’re in a place that boasts of great wine and beautiful scenery, you just have to drop the more serious touristic pursuits and pick up the bottle. Perhaps I don’t become more clever with wine drinking but it sure as hell makes life a little more fun. Plus being a tourist can start to feel a little dull.IMG_1149 IMG_1136IMG_1128 IMG_1082IMG_1064 IMG_1050 IMG_1027Stellenbosch was a great historical University town and a foodies delight.IMG_1503 IMG_1490I’ll pass on this…

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and have this instead!
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We did a couple wine tasting then spent a few nights in Franschhoek, a very walkable little town. Which was fortunate because forgetting our driver’s license meant we were at the mercy of public transportation or tours. We stayed in a tiny little bungalow surrounded by fruit and poplar trees.

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Being in nature I felt like I could catch a deep breath. I’ve realized this is where I want to be, in nature, and it’s become increasingly more difficult to wait for what we refer to as our “cabin in the woods” experience.IMG_1168IMG_1202 IMG_1193

We joined a trolly-driven wine tour and it was pretty funny being carted around, and also very convenient. I think we were about 20 years younger than the overall median age.

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This picture is for my grandpa, who loves anything tractor.IMG_1384IMG_1398 IMG_1406IMG_1411IMG_1263

I know I sort of joked about buying property here. But seriously, its affordable and look at this place! I don’t have any money so if someone else could go ahead and buy a little place I’ll come help you tend the gardens!IMG_1239 IMG_1227 IMG_1214

 

cape town + the penninsula

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” – Mandela

We were a little bummed when we realized we wouldn’t be able to go to Mozambique. Visa and transportation issues just didn’t make all the effort seems worthwhile, especially after our recent marathon travel to Lake Malawi. So with about 2 weeks we were deciding what to do. Looking at flights, they all seemed to stop in South Africa and so our choice was made. Call me crazy but I’ve never been drawn to S. Africa. I know many people who’ve been and raved about it, but it just never had an appeal for me.

So we flew into Cape Town and to be honest my first impression was not great. I suppose our first day out was a Sunday and many shops and restaurants were closed. Being cold and rainy also didn’t help. It gradually improved but it just sort of felt like any big city. Albeit a big city with a really cool mountain as the backdrop.

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We quickly realized we were staying in an inconvenient neighborhood but we checked out the City Bowl, Bo-Kaap and the District Six Museum that spoke of the community removed during apartheid. It was difficult to wrap my head around the disparity I was seeing between the classes and races. It was bothersome. It had a completely different flavor than other African cities I’d been to. Which was nice being a white tourist but also made me feel a little icky.

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We took the train out to the Winelands (which I will talk more about in my next post) and after imbibing our fair share we headed back to Cape Town, but this time we headed towards the Waterfront. And what a difference it made.

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It was a great area to venture out. We spent a day driving to the Cape of Good Hope and little fishing towns. We saw gorgeous flowers and vistas of the coast.

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The Western Peninsula was absolutely lovely. It has everything. It reminded me a lot of the Pacific Northwest. Just spoiled with natural beauty and an abundance of activities. We even started scheming that we should buy some property in the Winelands. Don’t worry mom, no plans in the near future. But what a change from my first impression just one week before.

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Channeling his inner explorer – Ezra was born in the wrong era.IMG_2417One of the last things we did was head out to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent many of his years in prison. This was one of the activities we sort of felt like we had to do but also sort of didn’t feel like doing. The boat trip over had pretty great views and once on the island it felt pretty depressing and desolate.IMG_2204IMG_2227IMG_2232IMG_2236Nelson Mandela’s cell and the quarry where he worked.

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It pains me to say it, but this was perhaps the worst tour we’ve ever been on. To be fair, I think it may have just been our guide. There were so many people being hearded around, and we couldn’t understand what was happening or what was being said, and this was an expensive tour. I thought Ezra, who is normally so patient and calm, was going to lose it. These pictures just make me want to laugh.

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The 10 days here felt like a tease. Hopefully there will be a next time, and we can rent a car and scout out more of the area. I will also be reading more about the history so I better understand this country.

How many countries can boast this array of signage?

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