Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Ode to Darrin Stevens and Becky Conner

Part of my day job now entails planning virtual employee engagement events. Turns out, many of our technical IT folks are fun and creative, so it's always exciting to let them use a different side of their brains in our seasonal contests. 

For instance, last year we hosted our first-ever virtual gingerbread contest around the holidays and it had great participation.

Chasing that high, I suggested our next engagement activity should be a springtime Peeps diorama contest, being as I’m a little partial to these.

However, I made the mistake of running this idea by HR (tagline: "where fun comes to die"), who determined that it may offend folks who don’t celebrate Easter, and suggested we instead call it a “Spring Candy Diorama Contest.” 

Having been down this road many times, I knew better than to argue and simply replied, “We will definitely promote it as the Spring Candy Diorama Contest. But just out of curiosity – are there any 'spring candies' that are not associated with Easter?” 

I did not receive a reply.

This month, we hosted the gingerbread contest for the second year. (Which is in NO WAY associated with Christmas, and which I suggested promoting as a "December timeframe baked residential structure contest.")

And again, we had great participation and recently announced the top four winners via email - including the overall winner who won by a huge margin. 

So it was slightly disheartening to learn from the winner's manager a few days later that he had STOLEN THE IMAGE OFF THE INTERNET and ENTERED IT INTO OUR LITTLE GINGERBREAD CONTEST! On a hunch, she had searched Google images and found the entry, which won a gingerbread contest somewhere in the Midwest in 2016. 

In the interest of not causing #gingerbreadgate2021, we are planning to quietly insert the list of winners into the next company newsletter – with that guy’s name and the picture of 'his' gingerbread house redacted, and the fifth place finisher now taking a spot on the winners list. Hoping, of course, that our employees are children of ‘70s and ‘80s television who learned to blindly accept when a main character was quietly replaced with an entirely different person and will apply that same suspension of disbelief to the holiday gingerbread contest.

(Ring gels, fruit slices, macaroons, almond kisses, chocolate-covered marshmallows, and chocolate-covered matzo are all spring candies affiliated with Passover. I stand corrected, which is what always happens when I get indignant about something.)

Happy Holidays! Stay healthy! Get vaccinated! Don't steal images from 2016 midwestern gingerbread contests!


Sunday, October 24, 2021

This Is What You've Been Looking For

I recently read the tweet below and frankly, I beg to differ.

I have a total of TWO friends who live in different parts of the country and we're not so pedestrian that we send each other dog videos. Instead, we find more creative ways to check in.

For example, last night, while in Target buying ingredients for my daughter's pumpkin bread-making date (she and her boyfriend are so ridiculously cute), I came across this lil gem:


So, even though it was a Saturday night and my friend in NYC was likely out doing what cosmopolitan New Yorkers do on Saturday nights, I texted her the photo, with a quick note that proclaimed, "I found that ceramic Dalmatian wearing a Christmas sweater soap dispenser you've had your eye on!" 

You know, so she understands I'm thinking of her.

Other acceptable phrasing (with actual real-world examples) for these touch bases includes:

    "Here's that [cat in a yoga pose figurine] you've always wanted."

    "Here's that [crossed tennis rackets with an inspirational saying wall decor] you've been looking for."

This has gone on back and forth for YEARS whenever the opportunity arises and it never stops being funny. 

At least to us. 

The 'two friends' thing is making a lot of sense,


Thursday, October 14, 2021

This is Nuts

A favorite thing of late is when my daughter comes home from school and shares notable parts of her day - not only because I love hearing what she deems a highlight, but also because her delivery is impeccable.

During a recent debrief, she casually mentioned that while eating with her friends, she noticed a cashew packed in her lunch looked like it would fit perfectly in the ear of one of her dining companions. And because she is a naturally curious child, she felt compelled to test this hypothesis:

Say what you will, she has always done exceptionally
well with spatial relationships in standardized testing.
Also of note: the very blasé expression
on the insertee's face.

I'd heard her mention ol' cashew-ear's name previously so I inquired, "Oh, is this [NAME] you've told me about before?"

With faux exasperation, she replied, "It's not [NAME] who's allergic to buckwheat, it's the other [KID WHO SHARES SAME NAME]. [thinks for a moment] By the way, who's allergic to buckwheat? How do doctors even know to test for a buckwheat allergy? Who's eating that much buckwheat?"

I haven't heard such a rant about boys in her class since she derisively explained one of her classmates lined up essential oil bottles on his desk and would select and rub an essential oil into his temples prior to taking a test. 

So, she's a little intolerant. 

At least it's not of buckwheat.


Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Can-Do Attitude of a Different Ilk

I adopted my husband's last name when we married. It had less to do with succumbing to the patriarchy and more to do with ridding myself of the clunky, inelegant family name I inherited at birth. That name was often mistaken for a similar last name and therefore, was always mispronounced and misspelled.

Then, I became a Cañedo (Can-YAY-doh). And although we add to the confusion by going with the Americanized pronunciation of "Can-eddo" rather than the mellifluous Spanish pronunciation, the name is bastardized in so many different ways it sometimes makes me pine for the birth name days.

I was reminded how badly this name is butchered when I recently called to schedule a doctor's appointment. The woman answering the telephone was the embodiment of "perky" and "chipper" and "I need an IV of espresso, stat!"

She helpfully asked my date of birth and last name (which I pronounced correctly), then buoyantly responded, "found your record right here, Mrs. Can-Do!"

As I knew this call would last for a couple of minutes and I would likely never speak to this person again, I did not correct her. 

(Narrator: She would live to regret that decision.)

While she began looking for an appointment date that worked with my schedule, I asked if she could also tell me the last time I was there, to make sure the appointment timing was correct. She cheerfully agreed to do so by brightly announcing, "Of course, Mrs. Can-Do, I'll look that up now."

And she was obviously looking through a list of records because as she scrolled, she chirped, "Let's see....Can-Do, Can-Do, Can-Do, Can-Do, Can-Do, Can-Do, Can-Do..." (repeat infinity times as I looked for a pencil to shove deep into my ear canal). 

She enthusiastically informed me of my last appointment, and scheduled the next one, reminding me to show up at least 15 minutes early to fill out paperwork. 

To which I (naturally) replied, "can do."

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Lackluster and Totally Luster

I recently re-enlisted the time and expertise of a trainer I worked with five years ago. In addition to making me work so hard that I "breathe like an asthmatic pug" (his words), when I am able to breathe, he also makes me laugh. Sometimes even on purpose.

Yesterday, he asked me what I had planned the rest of the day and I mentioned I was meeting six women for brunch who were part of a group that did a semester in London together in college - we were sending off one of our ranks as she embarks on a new chapter in Kansas. He queried, "where are you going to brunch?" and I replied, "a place called Blend 111."

Puzzled, he asked, "There is a restaurant named Bland?" And I sarcastically patiently explained, "yes, they named the restaurant 'Bland' - I guess 'Uninspired Flavorless Pabulum” was already taken."

Note: I feel compelled to share this is 
a really great restaurant. The food is anything 
BUT bland, and the service is phenomenal.

In different and equally ridiculous news, another friend is spending time redecorating a cabin she owns in the woods. (You may remember a horror movie weekend I spent there several years ago.) To add to the rustic, outdoorsy vibe, she ordered these prints to adorn the cabin walls:

So you can imagine her surprise when she opened the (correctly-labeled) prints and found the following inside:

Less of a rustic, outdoorsy vibe, and somehow feels more like a place
I'd wanna stay. (Apparently, Banksy is now at an Amazon fulfillment center.)

Definitely not bland,

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

I'm a Loo-ser, Baby, So Why Don't You Kill Me

It's no secret I'm a bit of a Dilettante, so in the areas of life where I feel I have full comprehension and mastery, I perhaps revel in it a bit too much, and then rest on my proverbial laurels.

Take toilets, for example. 

Toilets, I get: Use for intended purpose. Keep clean. Expert level achieved. 

Until you are required to go shopping for a new one for the first time in years and learn in the time you've been out of the toilet buying game, the entire industry has metamorphosed into something you don't recognize with added "features" and "engaging video content" and hyperbolized claims of what toilets can do.          

To wit:

Do I want the "no slam" seat...

...or the "slow close" seat?
(I mean, it's a $30 value - what have you
done for me lately "no slam" seat?)

Do I want a toilet that can accommodate 
seven billiard balls in a single flush...
(Yes, yes I do want this. Badly.)

...or one that can accommodate a
bucket of golf balls in a single flush?
(Talk about Sophie's Choice)

Aside: My mother has shared an adorable anecdote from when I was very young and our family of four was living in a tiny apartment with one bathroom. She walked by that bathroom one morning and heard the following from me: 
        "Bye bye, barrettes >flush<, Bye bye, socks >flush< Bye bye..."                              Mom runs into bathroom and prevents rubber ducky/bathroom scale/sister from meeting same fate.
I forgave her for being a fun-ruiner just as she forgave me for having our one bathroom out of commission until she could find an emergency plumber. 

Another aside: I am currently reading Sophie's Choice. It is extremely well-written and I appreciate the book, but cannot seem to get past about 100 pages. I don't know, perhaps digging into a heart-wrenchingly depressing book in the midst of a global pandemic was not the best idea. 

And yet another aside: Without getting too graphic, what diet necessitates toilets able to flush insane amounts of sports balls? 

And finally - to the people who have made developing content, video production, and marketing their life's work: kudos for adding this little gem to your resume:

"Never Compromise™ - it's the most perfect flush, yet!
They take flush power, bowl cleanliness, and toilet design to the leading edge!
Aquapiston ® technology! Cleancoat™ technology! ReadyLock™ System!"

So many technologies! And systems!

This was part of the display at the toilet store. 
To enjoy the video in its entirety, go here.

(Hmmm...why does Revolution 360 sound so familiar?) 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Great Pink Eye of Infinite Wisdom

Yesterday, Mr. Brutalism texted me while he was out running errands and asked me to take a pic of the grocery list on the kitchen door and send it to him so he could shop for groceries. 

Happy to oblige, I skipped downstairs, snapped the photo, and sent it. 

As a bonus, I also took a close up of the cat's anus and sent that along, sans comment. 

He never replied to this bit of inspiration, but later in the day, I received an email from him with the subject line "Awesome LA house!"

He knows how much I look at LA real estate as I am constantly planning our future there. I send him links to houses on Trulia all the time, but this was the first time he sent me a link. Encouraged, I clicked open the email - only to find the photo of the cat's sphincter. 

He also sent this along: an entire genre of cat butt coloring books - available on Amazon.

On one hand, these are my people and I've never felt so seen. On the other hand...perhaps this is the impetus we all need to take our business elsewhere.

I love a happy ending,


Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Sundance Film Festival 2021 - it was virtually perfect!

The big screen

Like many people, I prefer experiences to things when it comes to receiving gifts. Of course, it’s rather challenging to plan experiences during a pandemic, so it is a testament to my husband’s gift-giving prowess that for Christmas, he presented me with an all-inclusive pass to the virtual Sundance Film Festival 2021.

The film festival was this past weekend – so after a weekend comprised of our selection of ten full-length features and 20 shorts (and assorted Q&As with filmmakers and actors) – I bring you “What I Watched: Sundance 2021” with my completely amateur assessments of the most memorable films as determined by me. Enjoy!

U.S. Dramatic Competition

John and the Hole – Michael C. Hall – the guy who played serial killer Dexter -- now plays an affluent and uninvolved Dad whose 13-year-old kid drugs him, his wife, and their daughter and keeps them trapped in an underground bunker for about a week, while the kid lives life on his own terms, using the family’s house, money, and car to maintain his schedule and buy food. (SPOILER ALERT: when he finally helps his family out of the bunker, there is no explanation for why he did this. I do not care for ambiguous, nebulous movies like this – particularly after such an intriguing build up. There is no “why” except possibly flashbacks involving what appears to be his Mom when she was his age may have something to do with it? I presume it is supposed to be unsettling and thought-provoking for the viewer. If so, achieved.)

Rating: Spoon-feed me, please - B-

On the Count of Three  - I unfairly likened this to the male version of Thelma and Louise, which is not at all accurate, but helps provide some sort of context. The two leads have amazing chemistry as best friends and you root for them through the entire film – even (especially?) when they run afoul of the law and Jerrod Carmichael delivers lines such as, “Hey, man – thanks for hitting my dad with a tire iron. You’re a good friend.” Even though this is heavy material (a suicide pact, mental illness, child molestation), it is darkly funny and very sweet. Tiffany Haddish and Henry Winkler make brief but meaningful appearances.

Rating: Buddy movie with a twist - A

U.S. Documentary Competition

Homeroom – Oakland, CA kids organize and rally to remove police from their schools, who are not only threatening and triggering for the primarily black and brown kids in the school district, but whose funding is also taking away necessary programs and services from this same population. The tragic murder of George Floyd occurs during the filming of this documentary, which ultimately helps persuade the school board to vote with the kids after initially not supporting them.

Rating: Hopeful for the future – A

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It – 87-year-old national treasure Rita Moreno has joie de vivre that makes you love her from the minute the film begins and leaves you wanting more when it ends. After describing how Moreno overcame numerous obstacles including racism and sexism to seemingly embody the American Dream of struggling to achieve great success – this filmmaker posits, “and what could she have achieved had she NOT had to deal with that?” It is a deeper look into Rita Moreno’s life, tribulations, and a more complete picture of entertainer-as-human-being, including her early and continued activism, her relationship with Marlon Brando (about whom she delivers a perfectly timed line that made me laugh out loud), and surprising honesty about what looked like her perfect marriage. And at 87, she’s still working, wearing heels, dancing, and celebrating life on her terms.

Rating: Hey, you GUUUYYYSSSS! She’s the best and this was well done - A

Try Harder! – as the parent of a teenager who will be applying to college in a few short years, this film resonated with (and by “resonated with”, I of course mean “scared the crap out of”) me. It follows kids from one of the most selective public high schools in the country as they navigate their high school years and college application process. These kids have taken all the AP courses, have weighted GPAs of 4.5 or higher, and have sacrificed sleep, friendships, social lives, and many ‘normal’ high school experiences in the hope of being admitted to top-tier schools. (Most of them view Stanford as the gold standard, as this is a San Francisco-area school.) It turns out that when you are one of many kids with the same stellar resume, Stanford is simply not interested. Nor is Yale, or UC Berkeley, or Harvard. It is an interesting commentary on ticking all the right boxes to succeed, and it not being enough because it has made you the same as everyone else.

Rating: Be yourselves, for the love of God - A-

Our favorite movie snacks - we fully embraced
being couch potatoes

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Human Factors – see “John and the Hole” above – are there repeated home break-ins? Aren’t there? What does this mean to this family and their lives? Do I even care?

Rating: Headscratcher – B-


How It Ends – a full-length feature comedy with cameos from every person you’ve ever seen on screen - such as Rob Huebel – the guy who is in everything, including my favorite meme:

This is a lighthearted and surprisingly warm and funny narrative about the last day on earth before a meteor wipes out humankind. Interesting aside: it is filmed in LA during the pandemic - so none of the actors are closer than six feet together but it is not part of the story line. (Learned that in the Q&A and didn't even notice it when watching the film.)

Rating: Funniest death-by-meteor movie I’ve seen - A

The Sparks Brothers – billed as a documentary about “your favorite band’s favorite band” and “the greatest band you’ve never heard of.” And admittedly, I’m in the group uncool enough to have never heard of them. It made me miss John Marshall terribly, as he would not only have known their library of songs and been disgusted I didn’t, but would have also pointed out why I was incorrect in my assessment that no one has heard of them because their music is TERRIBLE. If you know this band, and particularly if you like this band, please explain it to me. The documentary was well done – I just don’t get the appeal.

Rating: In tribute to the avant-garde-ness of the subject matter, I rate this film: cucumbers

Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street – you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll still be able to remember every song and segment from this wonderful show. Delightful to reflect on a bunch of smart, creative people doing something that mattered and continues to matter. 

Rating: Today’s letter is - A+

Searchers – documentary about online dating in NYC. I’ll save you the two hours: it’s dehumanizing. Interesting filming – but way too long and not sure we gained any new insights.

Rating: It’s not you, it's me – B-


Wiggle Room – easily my favorite of all the shorts. The film focuses on a young woman who is seemingly invisible and powerless due to being poor, a minority, a woman, young, and disabled due to an accident. When she treks to an insurance company to follow up on a long-delayed payment for a wheelchair ramp her coverage is supposed to provide – she proves just how strong she is in a way that will have you cheering for her and thinking about this short many days after watching it.

Rating: You go, girl! – A+

A Concerto is A Conversation – I lied. This was easily my favorite of all the shorts. This film is a conversation between a 91-year-old black man and his grandson – about growing up in two very different times and both realizing different kinds of success (the grandson’s due in large part to obstacles faced, hardships overcome, and choices made by his grandfather). It is devastating (though unsurprising) how much racism and how many obstacles the grandfather was faced with, and instead of being defeated, was inspired to find different paths to his success. Harkening back to the Rita Moreno film – imagine what he could have achieved if he didn’t have to deal with that.  

Rating: This is just fantastic all around, and the interesting choice of using two cameras for close ups was brilliant - A+

You Wouldn’t Understand – I didn’t. I think it was about time travel and lasers and a pricing gun being used as an actual gun and interrupting a gentleman’s picnic.

Rating: SBH (Should Be High to watch this)


Documentary Shorts

The Field Trip  – depressingly accurate perspective of what corporate America looks like through the lens of kids spending half a day living it during a fifth grade field trip to Junior Achievement Biz Town.

Rating: I think we should amplify this through our channels and think outside the box – A

When We Were Bullies  - husband and I had differing opinions on this documentary that revisited a bullying incident the filmmaker took part in 50 years prior at his Brooklyn, NY, elementary school. He tracks down and interviews classmates and even the teacher for their perspectives on the incident. I wanted more remorse from those involved and less focus on them and more about the kid who was bullied (the filmmaker said that was the original intent, but he changed his mind). Stylistically, this was great. But if you’re going to the trouble of tracking down the bullies - I need contrition and growth. If not, I don’t need to hear how this affected the kids doing the bullying – I know they are way less traumatized than a child being jumped and pummeled by a crowd.

Rating: They should all get wedgies - B

Two enthusiastic thumbs up,

Friday, January 22, 2021

Yesterday, I learned The Standard West Hollywood is permanently closing after an unsustainable rent hike. 

Tim and I first learned of The Standard during a trip out west when we were newly married. At the time, we were staying at the Riot Hyatt across Sunset Boulevard and were intrigued by The Standard's iconic upside-down sign, so we ventured over to investigate. We fell immediately in love and have visited and stayed there during our subsequent trips to LA. 

Disclosure: Leo DiCaprio is an investor in this hotel
Perhaps he could spare a few shekels to keep it open?

We were nowhere near cool enough to be hanging out here - but somehow also didn't feel out of place in this weird and welcoming hotel. The funky décor, including a fish tank behind reception featuring rotating art installations often had human models as centerpieces.

Standard lobby 2013

              Possibly the best gig, ever           

For spring break 2013, we brought our then seven-year-old daughter here to stay for the first time. 

We rented a very subtle bitchin' Camaro 

Lobby bubble chairs 2013

The rooms were minimalist chic, the 24-hour Standard diner was great, and the impossibly good-looking valets are likely now all starring in major motion pictures.

But without question, the best thing about the hotel was ‘Desert Nights’ – a Wednesday night concert that took place in a tiny room off the hotel lobby called the Cactus Lounge. It seated maybe 20 people and was like listening to a concert in your living room – except instead of your stupid cousin, Gary, playing the accordion, it was fantastic live acoustic music from immensely talented singers and musicians. The audience sat, rapt, and let them do their thing. It is (was) a live music experience unlike any other. 

(Of course we asked if our seven-year-old daughter could hang out with us for 'Desert Nights' even though she was the only kid there, and they graciously allowed it, as long as she met her two Shirley Temple minimum. She has a good life.)

I loved Desert Nights so much, I'd recommend it to anyone heading to LA. Most recently, I suggested it to my boss who was visiting the city with his wife. He hated everything about LA and could not wait to leave, but absolutely loved the evening they spent listening to music at The Standard.       

And although we didn't know it until yesterday, summer of 2018 would be the last time we visited the hotel. My daughter and I stopped in for a late lunch and a sit in the bubble chairs after spending the day together in Hollywood:

Hollywood Ave 2018 

I know there are other Standard hotels - including one in downtown LA - but they will never have the same funky cachet as WeHo. 

Standard Diner menus

Cabo Cantina across the street from The Standard - which
we enjoyed in spite of the mega-rita (the name, not the drink)

I'm gonna need a couple of mega-ritas to process this,

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

We'll Always Have Paris

We were fortunate to travel to Paris and Casablanca for spring break in 2018 - and it was both the first time in France and in Morocco for any of the Brutalism family. In anticipation, I brushed up on the conversational French I knew, which was extremely helpful in both countries.

As with all travel, it taught us a lot - so here is Paris and Casablanca 2018, what I learned:

1.Your junior high French teacher, Mademoiselle Bennett, will be in your head (tete) the entire time you are in both countries, reminding you how to hold basic conversations with the people you meet. You will be able to ask how much something costs, where the exit is, if you'd like to go to the beach with Alice and Pierre, and sing the French national anthem, all of which you will use during daily interactions with people. (Aside: the French now hate us more.)
Even the metro signs
are lovely

2. You will determine the Paris metro is far superior to the DC metro in terms of frequency of trains, areas accessible by train, and cost. You will also determine it is less urine-y than the NYC subway. (Another aside: our 12-year-old kid easily navigated the metro during our stay - including unlocking the metro doors properly, a detail I conveniently forgot each time we rode.)

3.You will remember why it is so important to eavesdrop during your travels. While waiting to enter (the pre-flambéd) Notre Dame Cathedral, we saw a family next to us standing on a bronze star and saying, "okay, we found it, what's next?" So we followed suit and stood on the bronze star and took a photo with the intent of learning about this after we were back in our hotel room. Turns out it was Point Zero, the central point from which all distances are measured throughout the country.

Point Zero

4. You will learn Le Marais is an excellent neighborhood in which to stay. We were half a block from the metro, a grocery store, a boulangerie, a patisserie, and close to galleries and museums. You will find it vibrant and convenient and a great place to stroll. (Bonus: It is very fun to say "Le Marais" with an exaggerated French accent.)

5. When you consider visiting a flea market, you should make sure you get past the outer-circle-of-crap-and-knockoffs into the core of fabulousness. (We made it to a creperie and bought some boots, so even though it was officially part of the O-C-O-C-A-K, it was kind of win, just not the rom-com Paris flea market aesthetic we had envisioned.)

6. You will realize when you pack some of the same clothing items as your daughter, you should model them in your hotel room and take a photo. You should then don berets and stand on a street corner pretending you are trying to get out of a box or walking in very strong wind. (Seriously - could we look any more like mimes?)

See: French now hate us more in #1 above

7. While I'm glad we went to the Louvre and fought our way through crowds to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, there are so many more interesting and manageable museums to explore, including our favorites: The Centre Pompidou, Musee D'Orsay, and the Picasso National Museum. (We did have one cool experience in the Louvre when a spontaneous dance performance happened in an atrium as we were walking through, so that made it especially worthwhile. Until the dancer did some sort of primal scream as part of the performance which scared the bejesus out of us.)

Fun fact: we are the only tourists
who have ever taken this photo
at the Louvre

Under the Louvre Pyramid

Getting a different perspective at
The Centre Pompidou

Picasso Museum

8. Even though you don't expect to get that excited about the Eiffel Tower, you will get totally excited and take approximately one million photos there at different times of day and night: 

We got an eyeful of the Eiffel
(See what I did there?)

9. You will never quite get used to the heavily-armed guards at all of the major tourist attractions, patrolling the streets in Le Marais and in most of the metro stations - though you will appreciate the vigilance. Although, you will not appreciate the nightmare of being attacked by terrorists that causes you to let out a bloodcurdling scream that wakes your family in the middle of the night. (I'm very suggestible and seeing this many guards obviously lodged in my subconscious.)

10. You will envy people on a "bustronomic" tour of Paris (a glass-topped bus where you can sightsee while a gourmet meal is cooked and served to you en route). What a concept! With a stupid name! There were no reservations available, so we settled for hot chocolate, a Mont Blanc and macarons from Angelina's, which we ate in the Tuileries Gardens across the street. (People feel very strongly about the Mont Blanc - you can count me in the 'not a fan' category. Teeth-achingly, cloyingly sweet.) Pretty, though.
Lovely treats

10. When you land at the Rabat airport in Morocco as the sun is setting and learn from the information desk at the airport that you should not trust the taxi drivers, you figure out how to exchange cash for dirham, purchase train tickets from a machine, and board a train to travel the hour to Casablanca. This is done with complete faith in those who are helping you as you board the completely empty train and leave the city center to head through pastoral areas in the dark. (Your child will sleep through all of this as you try and use the GPS on your low-charge phone to follow the route. You will also remind each other that what is travel if not an adventure that takes you out of your comfort zone. Repeatedly. And until you almost believe it.) 

11. When the concierge at the Casablanca hotel tells you the 30-minute walk to the Hassan II Mosque is pleasant and takes you by the famous "Rick's Cafe" - you realize you must have made a wrong turn because it is not pleasant and you do not see the cafe. However, the tallest minaret in the world serves as a beacon and you easily make your way to the mosque and take a tour. Feeling emboldened by your navigational skills, you will decide to walk back to the hotel instead of taking a cab and end up in an area that feels very unsafe. Wanting to get back to the hotel as quickly as possible and with an adorable trait of getting angry when nervous, you will probably bark "GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME!" at your daughter when she stops to talk to and try to pat a stray cat. [Note: You will then be (justifiably and incessantly) mocked about this for the rest of your life.]

Pretty accurate representation, really

12. You learn security at the Rabat airport is no joke. According to the State Department, Rabat is much safer than Paris (hence, all of the guards with AK-47s in Paris); and that is quite possibly due to the 95 layers of security we passed through while going to our gate. A screening for us and our luggage as we walked into the airport; the normal security line once checked in for our flight; then a third screening at our gate to Washington, DC, that required every passenger to take off their shoes, get their hands swabbed, and answer a series of questions before going through a third metal detector. I had planned to walk the airport and shop for snacks prior to the flight, but was not about to go through that again, so we stayed put until our flight left. You will never feel safer getting on a flight in your entire life. 

13. You are reminded of the kindness of people once on the flight when you and your daughter are seated in the first row of the middle seats with plenty of leg room and your husband is crammed in a middle seat a few rows back. When he comes up to speak with you, a lovely woman sitting next to you will realize you are traveling together and offer to switch seats with him. When you thank her but let her know she would be giving up a comfy seat for an eight-hour flight in exchange for a cramped middle seat, she will say, "I know if I was traveling with my family, I'd appreciate if someone did this for me." And you will all get verklempt and vow to pay it forward.

Here's looking at you, kid, 

Ave in Casablanca

Hassan II Mosque - massive and beautiful

For what we learned, Indonesia and Hong Kong, click here
For what we learned, Costa Rica, click here
For what we learned, Italy, click here
For what we learned, Iceland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, click here
For what we learned, London, click here
For what we learned, Bahamas, click here
For what we learned, Southern Spain, click here
For what we learned, Peru, click here