On one of our safaris in Kenya, we visited a tribe of Maasai. These warriors live in mud-and-stick dwellings under the open skies of the African plains. When the youths complete their rites of passage, they marry and leave their parental homestead to start a new settlement. This tradition produces a curious cyclical effect: because the young tribesmen all embark upon married life around the same time, their kids also tend to be born one right after another. Our globetrotting lifestyle could not be much further removed from the lives of the Maasai, but even though we are far away from many of our friends, in a way we too feel like we belong to a tribe. Like tends to attract like, and now that we have started filling our social media posts with baby updates and photos, we have also become keenly aware of just how many friends we have who are going through the same stages of parenthood at roughly the same time as us.
Having done her research, S developed a plan to transition Munchkin out of our room and into his big boy crib. First, we would install blackout blinds, crank up the sleep sheep, and move the rock-n-play to the nursery. Then, once Munchkin got used to his new surroundings, we would put him to sleep in the crib. Finally, after he became accustomed to the big bed, we would stop swaddling him. As with her other well laid baby plans, this one also unravelled in the blink of an eye.
In one of our wildest fantasies, we are alone in a spacious hotel room. The king-size bed beckons with fluffy pillows and soft, downy, freshly laundered sheets. We peel back the covers, disrobe, embrace, and fall into a deep, dreamless, undisturbed sleep. After nearly four months, with Munchkin almost on the cusp of sleep training, such are the fanciful daydreams of new parents.
We spent a lot of time when Munchkin was in utero debating what baby gear to acquire. While our parents somehow managed to raise us without a ton of extraneous paraphernalia, some of the newfangled baby items really do make life considerably easier. Others — not so much. Having survived Munchkin’s so-called fourth trimester, here’s our short list of the items we found the most useful, the ones we thought would be great but wound up being total duds, and the ones that we thought would be useless but proved indispensable.
Tucked away in the northwest corner of the country, far away from the lights of the capital city, the painted monasteries of Bucovina receive far fewer visitors than other parts of Romania. On one hand, this is a shame because Bucovina’s idyllic landscape is dotted with more UNESCO world heritage sites than can easily be counted, and certainly more than can be visited in a single day. On the other hand, this is a blessing because those who do venture to this serene and scenic region can experience not just the beauty but also the tranquility of these ancient places of worship.