When two worlds collide

Last weekend J and I went to the Berkshires all by ourselves. All by ourselves, guys. J's parents kindly agreed to take Nora for three nights so we could drive a couple hours to a bed and breakfast for a relaxing weekend away before the new baby shows up. I decided I wanted to go away on this blessed weekend before I got too much further into the third trimester...before I got really huge and basically gave up on everything besides being pregnant. March. That is what is happening in March.

This weekend was awesome in a way that I can't quite put into words. It was one of those rare occasions where the vacation was truly relaxing in all aspects. Like, neither of us was worried about any work commitments, Nora was safe and sound with family and the place we stayed was exactly what we'd wanted, complete with a great big sitting room with a huge fireplace. We spent our hours exploring little towns and talking to fellow travelers and reading.

One of the days I took a nice, hot shower and when I got out I decided, "I am just going to sit here and dry off for a while." And that's exactly what I did. It was all about having plenty of time on this vacation - the kind of time you simply don't take for yourself when you're enveloped in home life - and right here and now I'd like to urge all parents to plan their very own weekend away. And do it every year. Really!

Anyway, the very best moment of this particular weekend occurred when I was slowly waking up from a nap in our room, and I received a text from J, who was in the main house reading by the fire, explaining that I should come on over because the innkeeper had just served mulled apple cider and cupcakes. I was pulling on my boots within two seconds.

Before you chide me for describing this as the best moment of the trip, please recall that I'm pregnant.

When you wake up from a great nap and then someone is serving you apple cider and cupcakes, well, THAT is a vacation.

It was a little sad coming home, although great to see Nora, of course. I was starting to think that I wasn't going to have another truly great moment for a very long time. But then MSNBC announced this week that on Friday, Oprah is going to be a guest on "Morning Joe," the morning news program we watch fairly religiously. I have to admit, I got pretty excited. It might not be vacation-worthy stuff, but that pairing on a weekday morning, along with a good cup of coffee? That's gold, baby.

All the vodka and other, more meaningful, memories

Our trip this summer shall forever be known as the Po-and trip, as Nora named our destination, despite the fact that we also spent a few days visiting Prague in the Czech Republic. It will also be known as The Trip Where I Saw People Drink More Vodka Than I Thought Humanly Possible. Of course I don't want to discount the castles and cathedrals and culture and everything else, but dudes, the vodka. Max and Kasia's wedding was the primary reason for our trip and the first major event on our itinerary. Well, I mean, following the plane ride to Prague, which - with an almost two-year-old - is a major event.

Nora was good on the flight over. OH except for the fact that she didn't sleep at ALL. What? What's that? Your daughter didn't sleep AT ALL on the overnight flight from New York to Prague? At all? Guys, not at all, and you'd better believe I was hating myself for not figuring out the whole Benadryl dosage thing a day before we left, instead of throwing my hands in the air and saying, "You know what? We don't even need this. Nora's a good sleeper."

The fact that Nora was super pumped to be on the airplane was the first problem, combined with the fact that it wasn't exactly an overnight flight in the truest sense. We left around 5 p.m. our time and arrived at around 7 a.m. their time, which is really 1 a.m. back home. So she didn't get that she was essentially skipping an entire night of rest. Instead it was like she was staying up super late with all these fun people and noises and movies playing on all these screens. She wasn't bad, per se, although she had a few moments. The real problem was that because it's not a great idea to leave your toddler unattended when they're awake on an airplane, J and I barely got any sleep either.

So when we got to the Budget rental car window at the Prague airport and Nora closed her eyes and passed out right there in her Go Go Baby carseat carrier, like, mere minutes after we'd de-boarded the plane, we were more, "You have got to be kidding me" than we were relieved. She proceeded to sleep for about the next six hours while J and I drove our Fiat Panda (!) the three or so hours from Prague to Jelenia Gora, a city located in southwest Poland where Kasia's family lives.

Except that I drove, not we, because when I was 16 the car available to me was my father's Toyota Tercel and it was stick. And that's just how I learned to drive, a skill that comes in exceptionally handy when you're in Europe. And, I must admit, it's pretty cool that I know how to do it and J doesn't. He may be an incredible scientist, but guess who got to take the Panda through all those hills and curves? Sometimes coming dangerously close to scraping the paint off other cars, because who do these people think they are with these narrow gravel paths that they call roads? But whatever, I had a good time.

As tired as we were, and with the help of a roadside nap at a Czech mall, we made it over the border and to the palace where we'd be staying for the next two nights. That's when the real fun started. After depositing our belongings in our lovely room with a view of the gardens below, we met up with old friends and new as the celebrations began. After an amazing dinner that night, the three of us slept a good 12 hours, regaining our strength and setting ourselves up for a decent way to cope with jetlag - from then on we simply went to bed late and got up late, not really caring if our days got started closer to lunchtime than breakfast.

On Max's wedding day, we headed into town with my brother, who had arrived a few hours after us the night before, and explored Jelenia Gora's streets and sites, and then ate Polish food for lunch. As I'd imagined, Nora was totally down with the local fare. As in, she may have eaten 500 pierogies.

Max and Kasia's wedding was in a gorgeous church downtown. Nora was remarkably good if you don't count her repeatedly pointing to the front of the church and saying, rather loudly, "See? See it?" to make sure we were all properly absorbing the depth and meaning of the moment. I was. Flying to Poland to see Max get married...I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

The reception that followed back at the palace was, as I hinted at in the beginning of this post, a very lively affair. Yeah, the vodka, which was placed on our tables as dinner ended, and we foreigners soon saw why as we were all asked to stand and join in a song and toast followed by a shot. The Polish people know how to have fun and although I'm harping on it, I don't just mean the liquor. There was ceremony and joy and...togetherness at this party that I haven't really seen anywhere else.

I hate to admit it but Nora and I were some of the first to head to bed that night, although I would like to make it clear that beforehand we both tore up the dance floor. Especially Nora. But at a certain point, roughly one in the morning, she simply couldn't stay up any longer. This was made apparent by her rolling around on the floor in her little white dress, brown in several spots because of the chocolate ice cream she'd eaten from her plate and then some from all the plates of her table mates. So I happily relieved J of parental duties and headed up to catch up on sleep I still needed.

The wedding went on until 4 or 5 a.m. and, incredibly, the toasts and singing and vodka continued the next day at a pig roast with Kasia's family. Nora made fast friends with various cousins and aunts and uncles. Dancing, exploring and playing with a puppy named Stevie. At one point Max asked if I minded driving him to a nearby gas station to pick up additional drinks, as supplies were dwindling. We went, just the two of us, and it was exactly like so many of the mundane adventures we've had over the years of our friendship. Except this one was in Poland.

Those two days kicked off our vacation, and what a way to begin. I won't write paragraphs and paragraphs explaining every beautiful site and experience that took up the rest of our week in Krakow and Prague. But trust me - and please excuse the lack of imagination here - it was awesome.





When we got back we were, understandably, tired. It had been a bit of a whirlwind and we spent the next week getting back into the swing of things at home.

Even now, a few weeks out, I feel like I'm still trying to get into the swing of things. Maybe because there isn't much of a swing to be had. I don't really have any work thanks to trying times in the world of journalism, and every now and then I feel at a bit of a loss concerning what I should do with my time, although I'm hoping the fall will bring some answers.

Just this morning I was changing Nora's diaper as J was getting ready for work and I called out, "Wow, Nora really peed a lot this morning." What? Nora peed a lot? I sighed as I heard myself say it. What kind of person says things like that? A person with nothing going on. J didn't respond and I felt a little dejected at the lack of interesting events in my life, beyond my daughter's diaper.

But wait a second, I realized. We just got back from fucking Eastern Europe. We wandered the streets of Krakow! We danced all night at a Polish wedding!

Life is all kinds of interesting. Thank you, Po-and. You were exactly what I needed.