Ben and I embarked on a trip to Minnesota just the two of us to visit friends and family. It’s hard living so far away and managing to make time for everyone back in my homeland, but I knew it was time to make the trek.
I knew the trip would be hard but I didn’t really comprehend in what ways it would be challenging. I take care of Ben solo quite a bit – every Monday and Friday I’m his sole caretaker, but five consecutive days and overnights is a little bit different. I was pleasantly surprised that the trip ended up being easier than I had expected.
Ben had already taken four plane rides by the time we set out for Minnesota. That worked in our favor because we had learned a thing or two about how to be efficient, what to pack and what to expect. I was approaching our plane trips calmly and with the realization that they were an insignificant, but necessary, part of our trip.
Again, much to my surprise, Ben was a rock star traveler on our way to Minnesota. He took two 30-minute naps, he was engaged in one toy for many, many minutes and was completely chill. Typical Ben is a big wiggler – his little legs are in constant motion and he likes to move from one toy to another. I couldn’t believe it when he was focused on my teething necklace for almost the entire plane ride. As it turned out, I did not need to bring a bag full of 20 different toys!
Our first full day in Minnesota was forecast to be gorgeous – low 70s and sunny — a perfect day for a stroll around Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis with my friend Sarah and her daughter Madeline.
Madeline and Ben were due within a day of each other and ended up being born 5 weeks apart. It has been an incredible experience going through my pregnancy and motherhood with my best friend. We exchange probably between 50-100 text messages a day! I was dying to meet Madeline and it was one of the main reasons for my trip.
I knew before Madeline was born that Sarah was going to be an excellent mama. It was wonderful finally having the opportunity to see her in action. Sweet Madeline is lucky to have Sarah as her mama!
In addition to our walk around the lake we planned a gathering with our group of girl friends from high school back at Sarah’s house. Another one of our friends had a baby a week after Ben was born – it has been so fun to share the journey with Sarah and Cammy and hear what their girls’ are up to.
I really enjoyed my time with the girls. The three other girls are mamas to older kids and they were quick to jump in and offer to hold the babies so we could eat or relax. I loved catching up with these girls and so appreciated the time together.
The rest of my trip was mainly spent with family. Sunday I joined my mom and aunt Sarah at the Como Zoo for the afternoon.
I think Ben really enjoyed the zoo. He was interested in the giraffes and waved both of his arms and feet with excitement whenever they moved. He didn’t seem to totally get the concept of the zoo, unsurprisingly, though the bigger animals that were awake and moving around were the ones to grab his attention.
Later that day I stopped over to visit my brother and his girlfriend, Becky, at their place and have dinner together. My brother went above and beyond and put together a terrific meal with Ben in mind. In advance, he asked me if Ben had had some specific cuisines because he wanted to prepare something new that Ben hadn’t tried before.
John prepared vegetable samosas, lentil soup, risotto and roasted vegetables. Everything was delish! I especially liked the risotto and Ben loved the lentil soup. Ben loved crawling around their big, open, carpeted living room too!
My dad got to spend a lot of time in the mornings with Ben while I was pumping and getting ready. It was so sweet to see the two of them together. Ben almost never falls asleep on anyone during the day but he did three times with my dad! I guess he’s got the magic calming touch.
One of the activities we did with my dad was go back to the YMCA that I grew up working at. I hadn’t seen it since the facility underwent a massive renovation. I spent 8 years working as a lifeguard, swim instructor and childcare staff at that YMCA and it was really neat to go back and see it thriving. We took Ben for a quick swim in the pool before heading over to my mom’s for dinner.
My mom and my friend Kelsey have become rather close over the last several years. It’s really nice that they have such a great relationship and my mom can see her “other daughter” more often than her biological one. Kelsey joined us for dinner one night and it was such a treat to see her. Ben was really out of sorts that night so we didn’t get a good chance to catch up or relax much, but I enjoyed the visit, nonetheless.
I was able to make up for the visit the following morning with some Ben and Mamie cuddles and time together before Ben and I headed to the airport.
It was really nice to see my family and friends and to see everyone get the opportunity to spend time with Ben. Until he was born I didn’t really consider the grandparent relationship or what it would look like. Alex and I are still honing in on that and working to find a balance that works for all of Ben’s grandparents. Each grandparent is so different and it is hard to meet everyone’s expectations and make sure the grandparents are feeling included and like they get to see Ben enough.
When it came time to head back to Seattle my dad dropped us off at the airport. I approached this flight the same way as I did our flight out to Minneapolis – with a calm demeanor and whatever happens, happens.
I also decided to consolidate and put my handbag inside my suitcase so I only had to carry the diaper bag onto the plane. In doing that, I went against advice I normally followed – I took out my extra outfit and the second extra outfit for Ben. Of course that quickly bit me in the bum – when I went in to change Ben’s diaper before we got on the plane I realized that his diaper leaked all over him, me and the baby carrier! We were all soaked! I did what I could to clean us all up and I got Ben into his one and only change of clothes and then we boarded the plane.
About half of the plane ride heading home was great – Ben was really happy and then fell asleep and was taking a really nice nap. It seemed like something woke him up and he got scared and woke up suddenly and I could tell wasn’t ready to be awake. He was really out of sorts for the rest of the flight and we spent most of it in the galley hanging out with the flight attendants.
All in all, I’m really glad I made the trip back. It was empowering to do it by myself and heartwarming see my family and friends with Ben. I’m not in a hurry to solo-parent an infant again for a while, but I’m very pleased with how well the trip went.