The Pregnant Science Teacher

Well, it’s been quite the school year. After two years of being out of the classroom, I returned and immediately found out I was expecting. My pregnancy is uncannily in line with the school year — about 40 weeks long, from August through the end of May. Including a couple weeks of time off before my due date, I’m only going to miss three weeks of school.

Teaching science to elementary school kids has been such a blast — definitely my favorite job thus far. The staff I work with are fabulous, my principal is super supportive, and science experiments are inherently exciting (and therefore kids are engaged without too much effort on my part!).

The kids are obsessed with my pregnancy. I have the apps The Bump, Nurture, and Ovia, all of which give me weekly updates on the size of the baby. The Bump and Nurture tell me a fruit or vegetable (for instance, at week 32, the baby is either the size of a large bok choy or summer squash); and Ovia lets me choose among a fruit or veggie, a weird-but-cute animal, a toy, or an item in a French bakery. This week, the baby is a naked-tail armadillo! Anyway, the kids get a real kick out of this.

In between 3rd-graders designing and testing parachutes, 4th-graders growing mold in plastic bags, and 1st-graders discovering that rainbows can happen even without water, I’ve been able to fit in a lot of fun stuff for myself and my husband too.

Since our New Year’s trip to Yosemite, Sean and I hosted my 15-year-old niece, Melody, for a weekend in February. We took her to San Francisco to see the Ferry Building, ride a cable car, browse the shelves at historic City Lights Bookstore, and eat gelato in North Beach. We also got to see a jazz singer perform in Oakland with Sean’s cousin and his wife and have Sunday brunch with my mom and aunt in Walnut Creek. It was a memorable weekend!

In March, my family threw me a beautiful baby shower and my little sister a beautiful bridal shower…all in the same weekend! We also fit in birthday celebrations for both my mom and mother-in-law. It was both exhausting and wonderful! Baby Bourne has everything he/she could ever need; now we just wait his/her arrival. Seven weeks to go!

The following weekend, Sean and I returned to Yosemite Valley; this time with Sean’s cousin, Steven, and Steven’s wife, Katelyn. At 31 weeks pregnant, I wasn’t quite as sprightly as I was for our New Year’s trip, but I was still able to hike to Mirror Lake and do part of the Valley Loop Trail. Sean, Steven, and Katelyn hiked to Clark Point, just beyond Vernal Falls (8 miles round-trip). The icing on the cake was Sunday brunch in the grand dining room of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (forever known as The Ahwahnee). We’ve now seen Yosemite in winter and spring this year; the goal is to go in summer and fall too. The only difference will be that we’ll have a baby in tow!

Last weekend we went on a very speedy trip down to LA to have lunch with my dad in Santa Monica (we ate at True Food Kitchen, which was fantastic), do a 20-minute tour of UCLA (now Sean and I have seen each other’s alma maters; he attended gorgeous UBC in Vancouver), and hang out with our dear friends, Nick and Hitomi in Glendale…all on Saturday. We spent the night with Nick and Hitomi (and watched Michael Bolton’s Valentine’s Day special on Netflix…highly recommended), and then on Sunday we drove the scenic route (highway 101) back home. We stopped in San Luis Obispo for brunch at a restaurant Nick and Hitomi told us about, The Gardens of Avila. Great food in a gorgeous setting!

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Sean in SLO

Now that we’re in the final stretch of both the school year and my pregnancy, we’re hunkering down. The only mini-trip we have planned is to Petaluma to visit Aunt Becky and dog-sit for her one weekend in May. Otherwise my weeks are full of school events like the Science Fair and Open House; and our weekends are full of childbirth classes, building baby furniture, and installing car seats, and prenatal yoga…with some socializing with friends in between. Life is good.

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New Year’s in Yosemite

To ring in the new year, we decided to carpe the diem as non-parents and rough it in snow-and-ice-covered Yosemite National Park for four days. We stayed in a [heated] tent cabin in Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village), hiked and hiked and hiked, and spent our early evenings in the cozy lobby of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly…and probably always…the Ahwahnee).

It was a fantastic trip! We’re looking forward to returning this Spring with Sean’s cousin and his wife. I’ll be 31 weeks pregnant, but I’m still planning on hiking…and attempting to keep up!

Irish Road Trip – Part 2

Orla, the owner of the lovely Cill Bhreac Bed & Breakfast on the Dingle Peninsula, advised us on how to plan the rest of our road trip. We looked at our map and decided to take the ferry from County Kerry over to County Clare, before heading back to Kerry and staying the night in Tralee.

So Sean and I got back into our Nissan Micra and back on to the Wild Atlantic Way, the beautiful roadways that line the rugged west coast of Ireland, and then took the ferry to County Clare.

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That’s our little Micra!

We stopped in the little town of Kilbaha for some lunch at Keating’s Bar & Restaurant. The talkative owner told us to not waste our time in Tralee and to instead continue driving north to the Cliffs of Moher, which we figured we’d see on our next trip to Ireland…one day. A couple of friendly eavesdroppers nodded their heads in agreement and seconded the owner’s assessment of Tralee – fine if you have to go, but not really worth seeing. We already had accommodations booked in Tralee, but the bar owner was so convincing that it was worth bailing on our reservation to see the cliffs, that we went for it!

On our way farther up the coast, we stopped to see the lighthouse at Loophead and the naturally formed Bridges of Ross (though only one remains).

Sean the Navigator used some of our precious cell phone data to locate a few hotel options close to the Cliffs of Moher. We decided on a little hotel in the surf town of Lahinch. Lahinch has a gorgeous white sand beach (with true surfing waves), a quaint main street, and is a short drive to the cliffs.

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The next morning we drove up to the town of Liscannor, where we parked at the Cliffs of Moher visitor center. We then walked for over an hour to reach this awesome Napoleonic War-era fort.

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The cliffs truly are dramatic and were absolutely worth skipping Tralee for!

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Just as we started back toward the visitor center, the fog started rolling in, and by the time we were back, the fog was so thick that we couldn’t see the cliffs! We could not have timed that any better!

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Satisfied with our lucky sunny cliff walk, we got back in our little car and wound our way through The Burren and back onto the highway to take us back to the Dublin area.

 

Irish Road Trip – Part 1

We read in Rick Steves’ tour book that 10% of all auto accidents in Ireland involve foreigners, and this became frighteningly understandable immediately upon exiting the rental car parking lot.

We rented from Dan Dooley at the Dublin Airport, and we were very happy with them…especially since they didn’t mind that we returned our little Nissan Micra with a banged up front left hubcap. Sean was the first to drive, and he did a great job getting us out of the city and into the countryside. He drove us to the Rock of Cashel, and then on to Kinsale. Because I am a control freak, I drove basically for the remainder of our trip (I was just too nervous as a passenger). While I did hit a curb, I felt better being the one in the driver’s seat. Sean was a fabulous, patient navigator (and husband, obviously).

The Rock of Cashel has too many components for me to remember, so I’ll let DiscoverIreland.ie explain it:
“A collection of medieval ecclesiastical buildings set on an outcrop of limestone in the Golden Vale. The 12th-century round tower is of the oldest surviving building on the Rock, also include a high cross, and the ruins [of a] Romanesque chapel – Cormac’s Chapel is one of the earliest,and finest churches built in the Romanesque style. The 13th-century Gothic cathedral is a large cruciform Gothic church without aisles built between 1230 and 1270. Also a 15th-century castle and the Hall of the Vicars is the entry point to the ecclesiastical enclosure. The Hall houses the museum where the original Cross of St. Patrick can be found.”

It was a very cool site to see, and I’m so happy that my history-buff husband put it on our must-see list. [Some photos below are a bit small; you can click each one to enlarge it if you want!]

It took us a little over two hours to get to Cashel, and then after our hour-long stop, we continued on for around 90 minutes to arrive in the ridiculously cute seaside town of Kinsale, in County Cork. Those 90 minutes were pretty stressful. The streets got super narrow, and the speed limit was 100KPH (62MPH) in areas where we felt more comfortable going 20MPH, much to the irritation of those behind us.

We made it, and we were very relieved to park our car and get settled in to our little room at Tierney’s Guesthouse. We loved the staff there – very friendly and helpful. After strolling around a bit, we ate dinner at Finns’ Table, which was magnificent! Truly a meal to remember. Julie Finn, a co-owner, was there to seat us and make sure we were well taken care of. The restaurant has only about 20 spots and specializes in fresh, local ingredients. The seafood and vegetables were fantastic, and my dessert was so decadent — chocolate-espresso mousse with Irish whisky whipped cream on top!

Stuffed and happy, we walked out to Charles Fort, and walked back as the sun was setting (at 1oPM). Being so far north was awesome because our days were gloriously long.


Before leaving town the next day, we drove as close as we could to James Fort and then walked the rest of the way.

After a quick but lovely stay in Kinsale, we headed northwest to the Dingle Peninsula. I’ve already written about Dingle. You can read about that part of our adventure here!

 

Dublin & Howth

Dublin is a quaint, manageable, fun European city that has vibrant pub and live music scenes (like all of Ireland). We very much enjoyed taking our time strolling along the River Liffey, navigating the narrow, winding streets, and stopping at all the famous sites. By night, we ate, we drank, we sang, and we experienced the craic first hand (the craic is and Irish term for a great time, which could include any combination of music, alcohol, gossip, and joking around).

Guinness Storehouse
An absolute must-see. The storehouse is where all Guinness is crafted, and the museum is modern, interactive, and very informative (both about the stout and the city of Dublin). At the end of the tour, you get a free pint with a fabulous view of the city.

St. Stephen’s Green
A large, sprawling park with a great statue of Oscar Wilde, who was born and raised in Dublin and attended Trinity College (below).

Trinity College
Trinity College was founded in 1592 and its gorgeous campus is open to the public. Sean and I spent our first afternoon there, walking, and then lying down in the grass, cat-napping and watching a cricket match.

Temple Bar
Though touristy, the Temple Bar neighborhood is really fun. There are great restaurants and pubs (including the eponymous Temple Bar), and live music at all hours.

Iveagh Gardens
Our first hotel in Dublin, the Harcourt Hotel, was located right next to these majestic, gated gardens. We got there late in the afternoon one day and stayed until a man came around with a bell, alerting everyone that the gardens would be closing. 

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HOWTH
On our way back to the city from the Irish countryside, Sean and I stopped in the seaside town of Howth, which is just outside Dublin. We ate at a restaurant recommended by Rick Steves called The Oar House; it was so good! Excellent seafood in quaint environs.

The Emerald Isle

All our eight days in Ireland left us wondering, Does it actually rain here? The only evidence that it rains most of the time there were the chlorophyll-rich hillsides and the absolute disbelief on locals’ faces when shading their faces from the sun each bright morning. We truly lucked out weather-wise.

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Not that it’s hard for my Canadian husband to get a sunburn, but his calves got pretty crispy on a hike off the West Coast of the Emerald Isle. Other than that — and a scraped up hubcap courtesy of yours truly — we had an injury- and incident-free trip.

 

We drove in a loop over the course of a week:
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While each spot was unique and memorable, I think our favorite was Dingle — for our fantastic bed & breakfast, the music-filled nightlife, the fresh seafood, and especially for its proximity to the Blasket Islands.

We stayed at the adorable and newly renovated Cill Bhreac House in County Kerry, just outside the Dingle town center. Orla, the owner, was a tireless hostess who fed us hearty Irish breakfasts, recommended the restaurant we ended up eating at both nights we were there (Anchor Down) and the pub we hung out in both nights (Paudie’s Bar), and gave us precise directions for getting to the Blaskets, as well as taking the ferry over to County Clare.

We bought an awesome book called Ireland’s Best Walks by Helen Fairbairn, as well as Rick Steve’s guide to Ireland. Both highlight a hike on Great Blasket Island, which we completed with two Irish companions — a man named Padrig and his Jack Russell Terrier, aptly named Marco Polo. Marco helped us negotiate the rocky and sloping island terrain and guided us along the narrow trails.

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Quick history: Great Blasket Island was inhabited by some hearty Irish people up until 1953, when the Irish government could no longer guarantee the islanders’ safety and urged them to abandon their cottages and extremely modest “town”. (At its population peak, Great Blasket had only 153 people; that was in 1841.) Nowadays there is one hostel on the island, but no permanent residents. Abandoned homes and other buildings remain, giving the island a rather eerie feel. Though we visited on a pristine day, it was not difficult to imagine the hardships that the islanders faced, being so cut off from civilization and bearing the brunt of wild Atlantic storms year after year.

The hike took us about four hours to finish. The summit, An Cró Mór, 292 meters above sea level, would have been our turn-around point had we not decided to descend to the southwestern tip…and then summit a second time before circling back to the harbor. It was worth the extra time and effort, as it gave us a better view of the Skellig Islands (you know — where it turns out Luke Skywalker’s been chilling this whole time), and gave us bragging rights for navigating a part of the island that most hikers skip.

 

If you ever get the chance to get out to Great Blasket Island — either to hike or to relax on the beautiful white sand beach — we would recommend catching a boat from the little man-made harbor in Dunquin.

Choosing to drive to Dunquin and depart from there, rather than departing from Dingle, gave us the opportunity to see more of the Slea Head Drive, which is a grand part of the rugged roadways along the west coast of Ireland called the Wild Atlantic Way. Dunquin itself is also stunningly beautiful.

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After our hike, we thoroughly understood Padrig’s Irish mainlanders’ joke about Great Blasket residents:
Q: How can you tell that a group of people are from the island?
A: They walk single-file.

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Road Trip: NYC to Asheville & Back

My little sister, Aly, lives with her boyfriend, Ryan, in Asheville, North Carolina. Last July Sean and I rented a car in Manhattan and drove for more than 13.5 hours (690 miles) to visit them!

 

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Starting out!

We loved our road trip, which spanned eight states – most of which we had never seen. We stopped in Lexington, Virginia for lunch on the way down and in Johnson City, Tennessee for coffee on the way back up, and took quick breaks in several other little towns in between.

 

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Made it!

Aly and Ryan live in a cool house in a woodsy neighborhood in Asheville.

During our stay, Sean and I got to:

  • Explore the historic and fabulous Biltmore Estate, which is just outside of town. We toured the inside and the gardens, and tried the wine made from grapes made on the property. I couldn’t take photos inside, but trust me – that place is spectacular!
  • Float down the French Broad River during an Independence Day rainstorm (not pictured, for aquatic reasons)
  • Play with Avi, Aly and Ryan’s cute pup
  • Hike in the Appalachians
  • Eat fantastic food! Those biscuits were dreamy! And Asheville is great for all the world’s cuisines, as well as excellent microbrews.
  • Hang out with the band (Ryan is in an awesome band called River Whyless, and we got to hang out with all the members. Click here for their fabulous NPR Tiny Desk Concert.).
  • Take a Pure Barre class (Aly is an instructor!).
  • Experience the Blue Mountain Parkway (the cabin you see in the slideshow is where Aly and Ryan lived when Aly first moved to Asheville)

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We had such a great time experiencing the Asheville lifestyle. We understand why Aly and Ryan love it so much!