About Me · Motherhood

10 Things You Should Not Say to New Moms

1.”Isn’t it so worth it though?”

I don’t know, maybe? Ask me in 18 years! It’s not the point. Of course he’s worth it, but being a new mom sucks a lot of the time. It’s like telling a kid who won’t eat that there are starving kids in China. True, but I still don’t wanna eat your stupid broccoli or deal with this screaming child.

Try instead: “It gets better. For example…” I used to hate when people said this to me. Specifics are key. Don’t vaguely tell me it will get better. Tell me it will get better because one day he won’t poop 8 times a night.

2. “Cherish these moments. You’ll miss them one day.”

No. I will not cherish all of these moments. Sure, I love when he’s all sweet and snuggled up to me. I don’t love the meltdowns and being trapped under my baby for half of the day. And you know what? Babies are supposed to grow up. It’s kind of the point of RAISING a child. My baby is sweet and precious and I enjoy a lot of the things happening in his life right now, but some days I also can’t wait until he’s five. Or 20.

Try instead: “He is so sweet right now. What an exciting time in his life!” Live in the present. Don’t dwell on what will one day be the past.

3. “Don’t you miss him when he’s gone?” 

Nope. He’ll be back soon. The rest of the time I’m with him 24/7. Getting a break from him keeps me sane. Don’t make me feel guilty about that. I make myself feel guilty enough without your help.

Try instead: “It must be so nice to have a break and then get back home to him.” It is.

4. “Are you getting any rest?”

Why ask this? You know I’m not. Thanks for the reminder. See also: “You look tired,” “Is he sleeping through the night?” and “Sleep when the baby sleeps.”

Hahahahah. Okay, I’ll just immediately turn my brain off as soon as the baby goes down and not worry about the fact that he might (probably) wake me up as soon as I enter a sleep cycle. I’ll also make sure that I’m doing chores the same time the baby is.

Try instead: “Can I come watch baby for an hour or two so you can nap?” So many people did this for me. You know who you are. THANK YOU. Other ideas would be to ask if you can bring dinner or do the dishes. I would recommend staying away from “Is there anything I can do?” Although there definitely is, I will politely tell you no. On the other hand, if you just text me and say you’re bringing pizza over, I’m not going to stop you.

5. “Poor baby!”

The baby has an army of people doing literally anything they can to keep him happy, safe, and healthy. Not poor baby. Poor mom. See also: (ignoring mom) “How is the baby?” Babies are incredibly important to look after, but so are mothers. Don’t ignore them.

Try instead: “Is there anything I can do to help you calm him down?” There probably isn’t, but it’s still kind to offer.

6. “Just wait until…”

Until what, I go insane? This is dangerous to say to a depressed mom. I have to work constantly not to think in absolutes. It feels like everything is never-ending, so the idea that there’s always going to be something driving me nuts is overwhelming. I know there will be pros and cons to every stage of life, but there’s no need to fill me with dread over it.

Try instead: “They are always learning new things. It’s so exciting!” They are! Even when I’m depressed it’s still exciting to see my baby reach a milestone.

7. “Don’t you wanna have a couple more?”

No. Maybe I’ll change my mind in three years. But right now, please don’t bring up painful memories of morning sickness, swollen ankles, back pain, contractions, and waking up every two hours with a newborn. No.

Try instead: Minding your own business. 🙂 

8. “He’s hungry!”

Oh, really? Please tell me more things I might not know about my own baby. Do you know his schedule? Does he eat at your boob? Do you know the last time he ate? Do you think I might not feed him if you don’t say something? No? Kthxbai.

Try instead: “Does he need something that I can do for him?” If he’s crying, it’s probably because you’re holding him in a way that he hates. Ask me, and I can likely show you a position in which you would both be happier.

9. “Did you tear?”

Again with the painful memories. Even if you didn’t tear, your lady parts are still a mess after childbirth. I am a gossip. I understand wanting all the yucky details, but you have to get them in the right way.

Try instead: “Do you mind if I ask- How was your labor and delivery? How are you recovering?” Let’s let Mom decide how much she wants to share.

10. “I did X, Y, and Z, and my babies turned out fine.”

Good. I’m happy for you. Still don’t want your advice.

Try instead: “Do what you need to do. This is what worked for us.” 

 

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About Me · Family · Uncategorized

Two Nights in the Psych Ward

Last week I glanced in the mirror and saw a legitimate crazy person. My face was bizarre and twitchy, I was rubbing my hands together, and my hair was completely disheveled.

Erwann asked me repeatedly if I had taken drugs. He promised to help me, and I laughed. He couldn’t help me. I wouldn’t get better. I broke. I knew the guilt would prevent me from killing myself even though I wanted to die more than anything, and part of me hated Erwann for keeping me here. All I could do was surrender to the pain.

We ended up in the ER. I hadn’t slept in two days and desperately needed help to relax. The doctor asked me if I had had thoughts of hurting anyone. I said yes, I wanted to punch my husband earlier when he was trying to calm me down. He ordered me a Valium and left. A social worker named Jennifer then came in and conducted a brief evaluation, concluding that I needed to be admitted to the behavioral health unit at LDS hospital. At first, that didn’t sound so bad.

Jennifer left, the Valium finally kicked in, and I decided I wanted to go home and go to sleep. Jennifer came back and informed us that transfer to the psych ward was not optional; I had been “blue sheeted,” a federal law that allows social workers to forcefully admit anyone who is a danger to themselves or others. Erwann and I both protested, as I had no intention of hurting myself or anyone else. Jennifer said it was too late, that I was “clearly failing at home,” and that I was homicidal. Erwann became agitated, and I was clearly in distress, so Jennifer threatened to call child services if we didn’t calm down and cooperate.

Erwann was not allowed to take me to LDS hospital, so two men came to the emergency room, strapped me to a stretcher, took me away from my family, and handed me over to a nurse named Gina. Gina took all my possessions and strip-searched me, squat and cough included. Once clear, I got in bed while Gina asked me all the intake questions, although she had to wake me twice before finishing. She finally left me to sleep around 1:00 am.

I woke up at 7:00 with full, sore breasts. I wasn’t allowed my own breast pump and had to ask the nurses to borrow one. They brought me a medieval-looking contraption that had no speed setting. It didn’t work well, and I quickly got a clogged milk duct.

I called Erwann and told him that I had ruined everything. I called my mom and told her the same. I slept most of that day, but I was interrupted by the psychiatrist and the social worker. The doctor was patient and kind, but the social worker was annoyingly optimistic and took a phone call from her car insurance in the middle of our conversation.

Erwann was able to see me with the baby at 6:00 pm. Léon began to fuss toward the end of the visit, and my anxiety peaked as they left. At 7:00 pm I asked for an ibuprofen (I had also developed a cold in the middle of all this) and something for my anxiety. I waited and didn’t get anything. I asked again and didn’t get anything. At 9:00 pm I finally pushed the call button in my room and asked again. I was anxious and feverish in bed for two hours before my nurse brought me any medication.

I slept well and was getting bored, so I went to the cafeteria for breakfast. I ate cold French toast and listened to a patient talk about how badly he wanted to be the victim of a mass shooting. I got stuck in a conversation with him about an “Amish whore” he’d shared a cocaine straw with a few months ago.

After breakfast I went to the medication counter to ask for more ibuprofen. There were two nurses behind the counter. I knocked on the window. They looked at me as if I were an interesting animal at the zoo and returned to their conversation. I waited for them to finish and help me, but they didn’t. I waved to try and get their attention. Again, they looked at me and returned to their conversation. I gave up and went to the nurse’s station. There were several nurses chatting in the back. I stood patiently waiting for someone to ask me what I needed. No one did. I waved at the chatting nurses, and no one came. A passing tech finally asked what I needed and helped me get some ibuprofen.

Also waiting for medication at the nurse’s station was another blonde girl about my age. She began to tell me in all seriousness about a crazy jealous woman who had hired international hitmen to have her killed.

“I guess I spent all that time overseas for nothing,” she said.

“You were overseas?” I asked.

“Apparently!” she replied.

I mumbled something about having to call my dad and sneaked away, but I kept an eye on her the rest of the day. She became angry with another patient she thought was trying to kill her and spent a lot of time pacing and chanting in a strange language in her room. I felt sorry for her and the reality she lives in.

I saw the social worker and the doctor again and got cleared for discharge. The doctor asked me if I would come back if I needed help. I lied and said yes. I spent the rest of the day learning nothing in group therapy and watching “Say Yes to the Dress.” I shouted out my commentary for the other patients, although they didn’t seem to enjoy it.

Erwann picked me up that evening, and I’ve been home since. I have had several more crazy episodes and feel complete hopelessness.

I’m just surviving.

About Me · Family · Uncategorized

Don’t Reach Out

Writing has always been a healing process for me, but I have put off writing what I’ve been going through because I feel like I have to be finished with it before I’m allowed to write about it. But I need all the healing I can get right now, so allowed or not, here’s what I’ve been going through.

I felt more fear and anxiety than joy and excitement when I first found out I was pregnant. My pregnancy was not complicated or unusual, but I hated it. I always thought that I would love being pregnant, but I had a lot of morning sickness, back pain, swelling, trouble sleeping, and general discomfort.

Every second of my unmedicated labor and delivery felt impossible. The entire time I thought I couldn’t take anymore. But I did, and I was SO relieved after, both physically and mentally.  Once the initial high of “I DID IT!” wore off, I started feeling pain in my tailbone. The day after returning from the hospital I was back in the ER because I couldn’t sit or stand on my own. I was prescribed strong pain killers, but didn’t take anything more than ibuprofen for fear of it getting in my breast milk.

And then there was a baby. We named him Léon James. He looked exactly as I had imagined he would. He made the cutest whimpering noises right after he was born and he had the most adorable mouth ever. I loved watching Erwann fall in love with him and whisper “He’s so cute!” every time he looked at him. I loved him. I had loved him for a long time, but he was a stranger and a 24/7 job. He ate and pooped every hour or so night and day. I couldn’t sit or lie down comfortably. I couldn’t sleep even when Léon did because I was in too much pain and too anxious about his breathing and when he would wake up next. I was in constant dread of the next time he would wake up, eat, need a change, or cry.

About a week after Léon’s birth, I spent the night slumped and sobbing on the couch in a position that barely hurt less than the others. I cried from the pain, fatigue, and because I wasn’t good enough for him. “I can’t do this,” was the thought that repeated itself without end. I resented him for hurting me and ruining my perfect life. I hated myself for resenting a baby that I had created. How could I blame my innocent baby? Why didn’t I feel that unique, overwhelming, all-consuming motherly love? There were a lot of answers to those questions. I’m worthless. I’m not enough. I’m a terrible mother, and so on. Those answers drove me to squeeze the soft skin on the inside of my wrist again and again until I couldn’t take it anymore, which wasn’t long. I cried and hated myself more because I couldn’t even self-harm properly.

I reached out to my mom. I reached out to Erwann. I reached out to my friends. But nothing changed. I hated being a mom. I wanted my old life back and simultaneously avoided thinking about my old life because it was too painful. I wanted to run away. I wanted to kill myself. I felt like I was already dead. I was no longer the person I had been. I didn’t know who the new person was, and it didn’t matter. I didn’t matter. Léon mattered. He was the only thing that mattered, and he deserved so much better.

I cracked after we had to take Léon to the ER. I stopped responding to Erwann when he talked to me. I cried. I hyperventilated. I cried more, continued taking quick, shallow breaths, and tried to scratch my wrists again. Erwann told me he would take care of everything. He said he would make sure I got better. I didn’t believe him. I wasn’t getting better. Erwann had to arrange to work from home because I couldn’t promise not to hurt myself. I spent days without talking. I only ate when Erwann sat me up and put food in front of me. He would bring the baby to me when he was hungry, and I would feed him, but I didn’t look at him. I stared at the wall crying and waiting for Erwann to take him away.

I started thinking about escape again. Erwann was doing everything in his power to help me get better. I wanted to get better, continue our life together, and be a happy family. I decided to give him time to try to find a solution. But I also I decided to take all the pain killers I had gotten for my tailbone as soon as it became unbearable.

I went to an appointment with my midwife and took the Edinburgh postnatal depression survey. My midwife said the score was scary and suggested immediate hospitalization, but I wasn’t willing to be separated from Léon. She said she knew of an intensive outpatient program for women with postpartum depression and asked if she could call and get me registered right away. I agreed.

I’ve been going to that program for two weeks now. I’m better than before, but I’m not “better.” I gave the pills to Erwann and am having glimpses at what it would be like to enjoy being Léon’s mom when he smiles and coos, but I still have panic attacks and think about escape. I’m learning ways to re-write some of my core beliefs that lead to negative emotions, but still feel criticized every time someone gives me advice because deep down I don’t think I’m a good enough mother. I still dread each feeding and diaper change, but find comfort in nursing and changing diapers alongside the other mom in the program. I am still overwhelmed by my new life and identity, but feel immense love and support from Erwann, my family and friends, and my therapists.

I don’t have much of a conclusion because this story is far from over, but I will leave you with this: Don’t reach out, because it’s not enough. KEEP reaching out. I reached out to my husband, and he saved my life. I reached out to my parents, my friends, a therapist, and my midwife. I have to reach out multiple times every day to get even a little relief from this burden. ALL of that continual reaching out is necessary for me to heal.

So don’t reach out. Keep reaching out until you find the help you need, and then keep reaching out some more.

 

Bled · Cres · Croatia · Istria · Ljubljana · Slovenia

Summer 2017 European Road Trip, Part 3

I was really excited about driving through Slovenia. I guess it sounded exotic. It did not let me down.

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When you google Slovenia, Lake Bled is one of the first things that pops up. We were surprised to see tour buses full of Asian tourists in Slovenia of all places, but that didn’t take away from the pristine lake and medieval castle in the background.

From Bled we continued on to Ljubljana, which I still can’t spell without looking it up. Erwann and I are not big on cities, but we were pleasantly shocked at how lovely the Slovenian capital was. It is clean, colorful, lively, and relatively inexpensive. We also appreciated how safe it felt- a stark contrast to Paris, for example.

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I said I was excited about Slovenia. But that excitement was nothing compared to how I felt about visiting Slovenia’s Southern neighbor. I have wanted to go to Croatia for a long time. I planned to go during my year abroad, but I wasn’t able to make it happen. I was not going to miss out again. I got really lucky though, because we discovered a few months prior to our trip that you can’t take a French rental car to Croatia. We almost had to cancel. That’s when my mother-in-law saved the day (and saved us a ton on our budget!) and lent us her car for an entire month so we could trek all over the continent. She’s so awesome.

Croatia is part of the EU, but it’s the only place where I got my passport checked. Once through the border, we continued through the Istria region and hopped on a ferry to an island called Cres.

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Croatia did. Not. Disappoint. We planned two nights on Cres and one night back on the mainland in a city called Pula. However, Cres was so beautiful and laid back that we cancelled our night in Pula to relax more on the island. We didn’t regret it.

The Adriatic Sea is WARM. All the beaches are pebble, which puts some people off. I think it makes the water look even more clear and beautiful, and the pebbles are no problem as long as you have some water shoes. A yoga mat or some other kind of padding isn’t a bad idea either, although we didn’t spend much time laying out because the water really is that amazing.

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Another big plus about Croatia is how cheap it is compared to Western Europe. We ate out every night for about 20 euros, including drinks. We also got to rent a small boat for the day, which is the best way to see the island because most of the beaches are inaccessible via car or foot. Plus, we left in the morning and got a small beach all to ourselves for several hours. The cost? 70 euros for the day, INCLUDING gas. Quite the steal, considering these views:

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Croatia reminded me a bit of Portugal, because it feels like the perfect mix between developed and developing. No one cares where you park your boat, but there is running water. The roads are terrifying and people drive like maniacs, but the food is good (not much different from Italian cuisine) and there is a tourism office. On the other hand, Croatians were not warm in my experience, but I chalk that up to their not-so-distant war for independence.

I was sad to leave, but there is no doubt. I will definitely be returning to this beautiful country!

Up next: Italia!

Austria · Bavaria · Germany · Hallstatt · Salzburg

Summer 2017 European Road Trip: Part 2

The Eastern Alsace region of France (see previous post) is known for its mixed culture. It borders Germany and has been claimed by both France and Germany on and off. So, after our tour of Alsace, we logically went to Germany next, or more specifically, the mountains of Bavaria.

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Neuschwanstein Castle is most famous for having inspired the Disney animators for the castle in Beauty and the Beast. With modern internet, this is common knowledge so there are hosts of tourists trying to snap their perfect picture. We opted out of touring the inside of the castle because we don’t particularly enjoy paying to be herded. Instead, we hiked up and around the castle to a bridge where it’s impossible to take a bad picture. This photo spot is also well known, but I found that actually crossing to the other side of the bridge made all the difference. Most people arrive at the bridge, walk out a few feet, elbow in between some people, take their picture, and go. We ventured further than a few feet and managed to enjoy the view for several minutes without being elbowed.

Neuschwanstein was just a pit stop for us on the way to Munich, where we were welcomed by an old friend from high school.

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Miriam did an exchange year in Logan, Utah of all places in 2007-2008. We met in theater class and have managed to stay in touch for 10 years now! She’s from Berlin originally, where I had the pleasure of staying for Christmas 2011. She was kind enough to put me up again and show us around another German city.

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I appreciated that for a big city, Munich is quite calm. There is a huge park with a river running through the middle and many food markets. It’s also a popular destination for tourists; it was one of the few places we saw Americans in the majority.

The next leg of our trip took us through more mountains, this time in Austria.

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We stopped in Salzburg to have a look around, eat a wiener schnitzel, and see the house where Mozart was born. Definitely worth a stop.

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Our final destination in Austria was the small village of Hallstatt.

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I was really looking forward to seeing Hallstatt because it looks so picturesque. However, Erwann and I were somewhat disappointed. Although it is indeed picturesque from the outside, the inside is stuffed with people. Many tour buses stop at Hallstatt, and apparently it is very famous in China. I guess the first Chinese tourists to see it were so enamored that they even built a replica of the village in China. See here.

Despite the Disneyland vibe and the overcast sky, we took advantage, walked around, took our pictures, and left when it started to rain. We slept on the road in an adorable hotel run by only one lady. We had breakfast included, which she served all by herself. Usually “breakfast included” means cornflakes and orange juice, but she actually served us at a table with as much bread as we wanted, fresh juice, coffee, eggs, etc. We were very impressed.

That wrapped up our German-speaking adventure in Europe.

Next up: Slovenia and Croatia!

Alsace · Belgium · Bruges · France · Uncategorized

Summer 2017 European Road Trip, Part 1

Immediately after my parents left France, Erwann and I started preparing our little car (graciously lent to us by the sweetest MIL ever) for a month long trek through Europe.

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We popped back in at Erwann’s grandmother’s in Paris for the evening and took off to Lille. We stayed with a friend of Erwann’s who came to the wedding in Utah. He and his girlfriend bought an old bar and are remodeling the whole thing. They were very gracious to host us despite all the hard work they’re putting into their new home. Also, they have pet rabbits named Mary-Kate and Ashley. Brownie points.

From Lille we visited Bruges, Belgium. WOW. What a beautiful city. Most cities have one cute neighborhood, but Bruges is full of them. Every street was lovely with unique Flemish architecture and vibrant colors. Also, Belgian chocolate. On a Belgian waffle. Just saying.

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Next, we went to the Alsace region in Eastern France. WOW. Mountains, fairy tale villages, wine, and BABY FOXES. I REPEAT. I SAW A REAL BABY FOX.

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11th century castle ruins overlooking Ribeauville
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Petite France, Strasbourg
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Colmar

Bruges and Colmar both have “little Venice” neighborhoods. But here’s the thing. Having been to Venice, I think Venice should actually be called “little Bruges” or “little Colmar.” Venice is definitely worth a visit, but I certainly prefer Bruges or Colmar!

The highlight of Alsace was lunch at Saint-Hippolyte, one of the villages along the Route des Vins. It was quiet, calm, and looked like it belonged in a story book. We sat down at the only open restaurant, ordered some local white wine that was fruity yet dry, and thus delicious beyond description. Erwann ate some kind of Alsatian pizza with cream and ham. I got a salad with melted Munster cheese. For dessert we got more Munster cheese. YUM.

Alsace borders Germany, so from Colmar we drove across the border into foreign lands. See you again soon, France!

Brittany · Family · France · Normandy · Paris

Metcalfs in France

Our adventure began in Paris and Normandy with my mom, dad, and little sister. What a joy it was for two of my worlds to finally collide! I loved watching Audrey taste all the delicious foods and my parents just rolling with the punches in a foreign country. We also had uncharacteristically hot and beautiful weather, which we weren’t counting on. Although I, Erwann, and anyone else we talked to would tell my family how lucky they were to have come during such a beautiful week, I still don’t think they realize how fortunate they really were!

In Paris, we did all the basics with all the crowds. It’s so beautiful, and there are so many things to see, so we were all happy to be there and also happy to get out of the city after a few days.

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Our first stop in the countryside was Auvers-sur-Oise, which is where Van Gogh spent the last few months of his life and where he is buried with his brother, Theo. Mom and Audrey LOVED it. I especially loved this house and all the poppies.

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After Auvers, we got some lunch, and consequently, my parents got their first true “snobby French server” experience. Dad ordered a steak well done. It came out barely browned. We asked the server if we could cook it more. He replied, “That’s not how you’re supposed to eat it,” and huffed away. When it came out the second time, it was even worse. We asked a different server to have it cooked more for us. She demanded, “Well, how did you order it?” In short, the customer is NEVER right in France.

Next, we stopped in Rouen, which is where Joan of Arc was killed. It also has a pretty sick cathedral that Monet painted several times.

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Finally, we arrived in Caen. I got to show my family around my old stomping grounds, and we all stayed with Valerie and Christian. They were the most amazing hosts, cooking everyday and making us all feel at home. That’s where my family was finally introduced to the “apero,” which is essentially cocktail hour, but to French people is literally the only thing they look forward to on weekends or vacation. They LIVE for the apero. It’s when they get to visit with family and friends, relax, drink, and snack. It’s what gets them through the tough days. Audrey loved the idea of just sitting around and chatting. I think my parents enjoyed it too, although I’m pretty sure they were starting to wonder if French people do anything other than eat and drink.

After recharging our batteries, we visited Mont Saint Michel, Saint Malo, Saint Suliac, Bayeux, the American Cemetery, Beuvron-en-Auge, Honfleur, and Etretat.

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Saint Malo, Brittany
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Galettes in Saint Malo. Audrey’s face says it all.
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Honfleur
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Etretat

I kept thinking how lucky my family was to get such an awesome first tour in France. Erwann made it so easy by planning everything and driving everywhere, even on his 30th birthday!

After my parents left, Erwann and I began our travels in Northern and Eastern France. You could call it a vacation, or you could say that we are doing research for the Metcalf’s next trip to France. Stay tuned!