Cuba Calling

Our 10th wedding anniversary was in 2016 and we wanted to celebrate with a trip, but weren’t comfortable leaving Camp behind. We also wanted to take advantage of travel while he could still fly as a lap baby. Where could we go that was somewhat adventurous but still a good family destination? The trip got postponed a year as we worked to figure this out. We first looked at various European itineraries but then decided against subjecting Camp to such a long flight. While he’s been a great traveler, having joined us on many flights and long drives, we just decided it would be more fun for everyone if we kept it shorter.

Aminda was getting restless to use her passport and to see a new country, which really limited our options for shorter flights.  When direct flights to Cuba became available up, we were ready to be among the first U.S. citizens to take advantage of it.

The timing felt opportune. Restrictions on Cuban citizens have been easing over the past few years, resulting in better services for travelers but not so much as to result in a complete character shift. Neither Starbucks nor McDonalds can be found in the country (open to civilians at least; there are said to be several U.S. chains located within the Guantanamo naval base), but who can say how much longer that will be the case.

Cuba was Cameron’s first international trip – a place with inconsistent WiFi where hardly anyone speaks English. To keep it easy (this was our anniversary celebration after all), we spent most of our nights at an all-inclusive resort. We’re normally not the all-inclusive types but this worked perfectly. The resort we chose was older, laid-back and un-crowded. We only had a couple days which filled easily at the beach and pool.

Booking our Cuba travel was a much different experience than we’re accustomed to. To book our domestic airfare we reserved flights with a tour agency based in Madrid who then booked the flight for us with an operator in Havana. The price of the domestic flight included airport transfers both directions at both the arrival and departure site.

They charged our credit card and in return e-mailed us a “voucher” with instructions to hand it to the “rep who will meet you at the airport.” The body of the e-mail instructed us to call the operator the day before the flight to reconfirm our airport transfer time and flight time. It all felt a little sketchy.

We flew from Ft. Lauderdale to Havana and then from Havana to Cayo Coco that same day. We thought we’d be stretched to kill time in the airport during our four hour layover, but that time was easily filled. First, it took an hour and a half to get our luggage. Then we had to load up the bags for a $10 taxi ride from the international to the domestic airport terminal.

Once we arrived at departures, I nervously handed my “voucher” to the agent, half expecting her to shove it back at me tell me it was bogus or I had failed to complete a few booking steps. Instead, we were quickly checked in and presented with a hand written boarding pass. Our waiting time passed quickly as Cameron was very popular with a couple of Cuban moms at the airport. Thankfully, our flight was the only one of the four departures that afternoon that was on time.

Ten of us debarked at Cayo Coco with the rest continuing on. We were promptly greeted by a friendly guide and five minutes later our luggage was hand-delivered. We boarded a comfortable, air conditioned sprinter van for the ride to our resort, where they knew our name upon arrival. All of my nerves dissipated, freeing us up to relax and enjoy our resort living. Cayo Coco boasted beautiful white sand beaches and warm ocean swimming. A private snorkeling tour cost us only $40 and we all enjoyed the Hobie Cat sail boat cruise out to the reef.

The resort was refreshingly kid friendly. Our snorkeling guide had a two year old daughter of his own and when our boat returned to shore, he expertly scooped up a sleeping Cameron and gently carried him safely to the beach.

Too soon we were back at the airport, jockeying for position in the chaotic boarding area as three departing flights were announced out once. The gate signage was a mess, leaving hundreds of passengers crammed into the departures area with no idea where they were going.

Finally, we arrived in Havana. With only 24 hours, we had to start exploring. Not being city people, we found one night to be plenty of time. The combination of heat, humidity and diesel fuel was draining.

First up was a walking tour of old town, wandering through grassy promenades, music-filled plazas and narrow cobblestone streets mirroring those of other Spanish colonial cities. Cameron got a reprieve from the stroller at a local playground, running and climbing with local families.

Our Air B&B was located in the residential neighborhood of Vedado, a short 10 minute drive from Old Town. Sunday morning was Mother’s Day and by 8a.m. the neighborhood was bustling. The street adjacent to our apartment was lined with flower vendors at the entrance to a large cemetery. Hundreds of families had come by foot to bring flowers to the graves. Other families were using the morning to grocery shop, loading huge bags of rice onto scooters and sorting through through the produce stands.

Our taxi rides included a couple of vintage cars, like a 1978 vintage Russian Lada with broken handles. We admired the beautifully maintained classic American Chevys and Fords (available at an additional cost or as a rental). We were fortunate to hang out with a couple of English speaking locals who gave us some insight into the complicated nation (yes, embarrassingly our Spanish is pretty minimal). While restrictions have been easing, such as the ability to travel out of the country and more opportunities for private business, these endeavors are hindered by restraints, particularly with the internet. Currently, internet is only available in hotels and public parks, complicating any travel or business arrangements. Locals are able to purchase new vehicles but are shut down by inflated prices.

Cuba was both a relaxing vacation and an exciting cultural experience. While our trip was short, we were happy for the opportunity and also excited to be heading back to Florida to finish our vacation in the Keys.

5 Books that Inspire Travel & Adventure

January means it is time to start planning the year’s adventures, so here are a few suggestions to inspire. Disclaimer, this list is pretty much all Aminda’s (with one exception). It is also not an all-time favorites list, I wanted to stick to books that have been published within the last five years. I also wanted to represent several geographic regions. In putting this together, I realized I’m missing Asia, so I’ll be sure to look for something current for my reading list (Couple of my older favorites are Pearl of China and Foreign Babes in Beijing). All reading suggestions are welcome!

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by [Fedarko, Kevin]The Emerald Mile (U.S). This book is long. And jam packed with history. And feats of engineering. Ready to dive in? It also manages to deftly weave all of that education into a seat-of-your pants race against time down the Colorado River.  Josh, who is more of an audiobook guy, read all 400+ adventure-filled pages in just a few days.

The Syrian Jewelry Box (Middle East). There really are not many contemporary books out there that present the Middle East as a tourist destination, which makes this book compelling. The Syrian Jewelry Box is a memoir told through the eyes of a pre-teen girl discovering the beauty and mystique of Saudi Arabia and the surrounding region while living as part of an expatriate family.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu (South America). One part mystery, one part history, two parts “city-slicker-ventures-into-the-wild”, all parts funny. Be prepared to find yourself longing to grab your machete and depart on a way-off-the-beaten path adventure.

Circling the Sun (Africa) is a fictionalized telling of the life of Beryl Markham, first woman to make a solo East to West flight crossing of the Atlantic. Prior to that accomplishment, Beryl had already lived a full life of adventure in the gorgeous landscapes of Africa. I immediately had to follow this up by reading Beryl’s story in her own words in West with the Night. Both these books will inspire anyone to take chances and live life to the fullest.

Exposure to a Billionaire (Europe). This is definitely the oddity on this list. Encounters is a unique fictionalized autobiography about a corporate flight attendant enjoying the life of luxury provided by her occupation. It’s a light, fast read and a nice change of pace from the more rugged selections on this list. And who hasn’t fantasized even just a little bit about living the lifestyle of the rich and famous?

Camping with a Baby: Adventures with our Happy Camper

Cameron just turned 18 months and has spent more one month of his nights camping. We’ve dragged him along on our journeys and our happy Camper has risen to the challenge. Those 33 nights in six states have taught us a lot, and we’ve had to change our sleeping arrangements a few times along the way as Camp grows.

Tenting It

Cameron was about 5 weeks old when he spent his first night in the great outdoors, camping in a big 4-person tent. Unfortunately, it started raining as soon as we arrived at the campground, so we all spent a couple hours crammed into the truck before we even had enough of a break to get out and set up the tent.

Once we did get settled in the tent, Cameron slept comfortably. The tent was large enough to set up the Pack & Play, the bassinet of which made It easy to bundle him up nice and warm. Our battery operated white noise machine made it easy to bring along this important sleep cue.

Tent Camping Pros

  1. Pack and Play fit, so it was a roomy space for all three of us

The Cons

  1. Difficult for mom to nurse with no back support
  2. Risky in the heavy rain and wind, as tents are prone to leaking and collapse

Truck Camper Version 1.0

The camper, up and ready for living
The camper, up and ready for living

About three weeks later, we set out again in our new-to-us truck camper. The camper is unique in that it has a soft top, which is raised when in use. This feature makes it lighter weight and lower profile. The camper has a queen size upper bunk and lower bench seat that folds out into a bed.

On this first trip we actually attempted to squeeze the pack n play into the camper. It was a tough fit, given the PnP pretty much took up the entire lower bed, leaving about 6 inches for Josh and I to squeeze past to get to the upper bed. That wasn’t going to work.

So, with Cameron still being just a little 10-pounder, we all piled into the queen sized upper bunk together. This worked pretty well for our next three camping trips, until Camp was about 10 months old. By then, he was bigger and didn’t fit as well with us. Plus, he had moved from his bassinet into his own room and crib, so he didn’t react very well to regressing back to co-sleeping. It was time to change our setup again.


The camper filters out the noise and provides protection from the cold and rain… less variables mean less stressful trips.

Can keep a lot of items already packed in the camper, for faster departure


The upper bunk of the camper has soft siding, so there still no back support without climbing down to the bench seat.

The combined kitchen/sleep space feels more cramped than a big open tent with outdoor cooking.

Truck Camper Version 2.0

Camping with kidsOur camper is designed to sleep 3-4 people, so there had to be a way for all of us to fit. Doing it safely and comfortably is another story. Even the lower bed leaves a gap, creating potential for Cameron to fall off if left alone.  Aminda could sleep on the upper bed with Cameron, and Josh on the lower, but she would pretty much have to stay up there with him from the time he goes down to the time he wakes up. Then, we stumbled upon a product called the PeaPod portable travel bed. The peapod is a fully enclosed zipper tent. So, we can set it up on the top bunk for Cameron and zip him in, giving us the space and flexibility we need.

The downside is that little Cameron’s tent pretty much takes up the entire top bunk! Josh said big “no way” to squeezing into the bottom bunk and decided to voluntary set up his own little man cave tent outside the camper. At 18 months, Camp is just about big enough to handle the lower bunk on his own, which will soon allow us all to once again comfortably share our cozy camper space together.

Any tips for camping in the toddler years? Please share!

Married at First Sight Recap: Finale

Finally, it’s Decision Day! While exciting, it’s also hard not to be a little cautious about getting too wrapped up in the excitement. After all, six weeks is more of an arbitrary deadline that’s more production driven than a time frame actually related to the couples’ relationships.

Maybe I’m (Aminda) a little jaded after Season 3, which featured this absolutely fun and likeable couple who were both totally into each other and chose, with hardly any hesitation, to stay married. By time the reunion show filmed, they had already broken up. Previews for this season’s reunion episode are already hinting that this might be the case again. That literally gets me choked up.

So, I had to go back and review what I wrote after the very first episode.

Hopefully they all find their happily ever after, but whether they do or don’t, I’m still going to enjoy sharing their experience. I’ve read a lot of social media comments from people describing the last two seasons as terrible failures because none of the couples stayed together. To which I want to respond, if you want a guaranteed love story go watch a scripted romantic comedy. Or even the Bachelor, where the couple is at least guaranteed to be together until the end of filming (whether they want to be or not). Personally, I don’t want there to be pressure on these couples to stay together for the audience. I want them to have permission to be true to themselves because that’s exactly what differentiates MAFS from most current reality TV.

I’m struggling with this right now. I still 100 percent agree that it has been a good season, despite the outcome. But… the reason it has been a good season it because these couples are all really likeable. Which makes me genuinely want them to find the lasting marriage they are looking for.

I’ve never had any doubts that Lilly and Tom have found that marriage. These two are solid. So the first hour of the finale was gut wretching to watch, as Lilly experienced ulcer-inducing panic over Tom’s indecision. It was crushing to hear Tom say that he’s starting to realize that “Lilly is not the exact person I was hoping for.” Thank God he came around to realize the truth in the fact that you can’t always get what you want… but sometimes you find you get what you need. It’s probably safe to say that NOBODY marries a cookie cutter image of who they think they think they want to be married to. NOBODY. (including you, Heather).

Now, being believers in a higher power, I give credit to God for not giving me (Aminda) exactly what I wanted in a husband. He’s not the man of my dreams. Nope, instead I got a husband who is so much more amazing than I ever could have dreamed up for myself. Just like Tom, who found his sexy, compassionate and loving Lilly, I tossed my stupid checklist out the window and let God rewrite it.

I can also see why Tom, even if he’s happy and not quite ready to break up,  feels the need to consider all these different angles of their marriage. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on these couples to make a huge decision in a short time with a lot of outside stressors.

Anyway, back to the show. The vision board exercise is new this year, and seemed to mostly be a positive addition. It was just a little frustrating to hear Lilly and Tom basically set out the same goals without seeing it, because the means to their end are different. They both want a lifestyle of freedom and flexibility. Lilly wants it through building assets (that will produce passive income), Tom wants it by reducing assets. Tom, I respect the minimalist values but you might really appreciate Lilly’s hard work in 30-40 years. Just sayin.

The vision board experience was positive enough for Sonia to feel comfortable moving back in, at least for a night. Though Nick still seems slightly butt hurt that she didn’t move in sooner, how many times did Nick say that he wanted to have kids with Sonia? I really should have counted, as it was just about the most open Nick has been all season.

In an interview, Sonia mentioned that she and Nick had discussed how different things would be once the cameras were gone and life was a little more normal. Even Tom and Lilly (who Tom suddenly started calling Lillian during interviews… did that reflect his shifting emotions towards her?) seemed a little more strained and reserved in front of the cameras than usual. The whole joke about the matching outfits on the night before decision day just felt a little forced.

Speaking of forced, that’s exactly how the decision day outcome felt. Each person’s declaration felt so unnatural and disjointed, the way they had to tease the audience. Like, Lilly has been telling us for the past hour that she wants to stay with Tom, but then goes and says “I would like to grow in love, but I have decided that… Duh, duh, duuuuuuh….. I would like to stay married to you.

That makes NO sense at all, why pile on nervousness to an already tense situation by making her memorize something so ridiculous sounding. Come on, MAFS, that’s sinking to Bachelor-level lows.

It made a little more sense with Sonia, since she’s been on the fence. I mean, that was the longest commercial break ever leaving us hanging to hear her decision to stay married.

So, two couples stay married and after such a warm and fuzzy finale, it’s heart breaking to see Nick without his ring in the reunion show previews. Hopefully the ring is just getting cleaned… but that’s doubtful.

It was way fun to see the couples meet each other. I seem to remember in Season One, the three couples all met each other prior to decision day. Makes me curious about why that wasn’t carried forward, as it seems like it provided the couples some good support and outside perspective from people who actually understood what they are all going through. At least now they have that support to help them transition to off-camera life.

Married at First Sight Recap: Episode 12 & 13

Our couples are hurtling towards decision day and the end of the journey is bringing some emotional big emotional highs and lows. As Lilly struggles through her estranged dad’s birthday, the moment forces her to rely on Tom’s support to get through. Tom, of course, is a rockstar of support due to the unfortunate fact that he also has a nonexistent relationship with his own father. Says Tom, “I still call my dad on his birthday. He never calls me, but it still makes me feel good.” Such an awful thing to bond over, but these two are certainly rising above their circumstances.

Thankfully, Tom and Lilly’s mothers are in route to brighten up the week. Tom is adorable in asking for Lilly’s mom’s blessing on the marriage and trying so hard to communicate in Spanish.

One of these things is not like the others
One of these things is not like the others

We learn from Tom’s mom that “he’s not a follower”, as he begrudgingly joins the ladies for painting night but copes by eschewing the bland dolphin design that the group is following, instead creating his own unique piece featuring a swimmer chased by a shark. (Love how he mis-uses the dolphin stencil to make his shark tail.)

Tom’s mom also gives Lilly the insight that he always need to have attention (and always has). So the worst thing that anyone could do is ignore him. This is really good to understand exactly why the phone/work issue is such a big deal to Tom, because he’s been making a big deal about it (or production is making a big deal out of it to add some drama and suspense). Anyway, it feels like a lot of drama from him because seriously, it’s not like the whole world isn’t on their phone all the time. Especially Lilly being self-employed. In fact, it’s almost hard to believe that Tom, being an entrepreneur himself, finds it so easy to limit his working hours solely to week days.

It is a bit of a red flag that Tom says about Lilly “she’s really stubborn and doesn’t want to change.” It’s really important to avoid using these definitives about a spouse, like “you never”, “you always” or “you won’t.” Both in thoughts and out loud (because thoughts are prone to leaking out the lips, as Nick learned the hard way). Those blanket assumptions can blind us to the exceptions, to the good in our partner. When we expect them to act a certain way, eventually that way is all we’re going to see.

Anyway, it’s been five weeks! A stressful five weeks. To say something so definitively about what a spouse is or isn’t willing to do, is a little premature. Lilly did the same thing in Episode 13 where she said Tom always feels like he needs to be right or have the last word in a conversation.

But we’ll let them both off the hook because they are 99% full of super sweet and supportive things to say about each other. Plus both of those comments came during producer interviews, so we know they were probably  just trying to come up with a dozen way of saying the same thing in response to the endless questioning.

Episode 13 is mostly high for Tom and Lilly as they embark on a mini 2nd honeymoon. From our vantage point, it appears that Dr. Pepper gives them just a couple of days notice for this assignment, but they must have had more time than that. It’s not really fair to tell Lilly to put away her phone for a weekend without giving her a chance to make arrangements like alerting clients.

They take the bus which seems a little bittersweet for Tom, as he realizes that Lilly is never really going to embrace bus living, but at least she’s making an effort to show respect for and interest in bus operations. I mean, how can she not love traveling in a vehicle where she can stretch out and sleep, then get up and get herself a cold beverage from the fridge. It’s so awesome that by the end of the trip, Lilly is day dreaming about taking an extended cross-country road trip! (if you haven’t figured it out, we really love road trips!)mafs6

Another great quote from Lilly was that “Tom really does push me out of my comfort zone and that’s something I asked for from the beginning. Because I really do like to try new things but I’m a scardy cat.” I second Dr. Pepper in that I too hope that these two stay married and have one big wonderful adventure together.

Nick and Sonia are on a 2nd honeymoon and have returned to their usually quirky banter that we love about them.

Sonia, “can we go salsa dancing?” (while in South Beach)

Nick, we can frickin’ go salsa dancing while we’re rollerblading (WTF? Or is that a movie quote, am I that out of touch? Either way, these guys are so perfect for each other. The fact that they feed off each other’s oddball humor is so endearing.)

These two definitely needed a change of scenery and a little reminder of how things were on their real honeymoon. Just like prior to the last honeymoon, Nick gets to hang out with Sonia’s dad first. This time he’s really stressed. And thank goodness the overdramatic music playing loudly during this scene wasn’t really there in real life, or Nick probably would have sweated blood.

Nick finally admits that Sonia has worked really hard to accept the dogs and that it means a lot to him. And Sonia admits that she misses their house and even the dogs, though not enough to move back in with only a week left to go.

So, instead of rollerblading, these two embark on a tandem bike adventure, managing not to run into anyone while navigating streets teaming with tourists. Nick says planned this activity because he wanted Sonia to know she can be comfortable sharing a space with him. This could have really backfired, but fortunately Sonia embraces the experience. Even though she can’t see past Nick’s back, having to rely on him not to kill them, she is comfortable, at ease and happy to forget about all their drama.

Over dinner that night, Nick tells her he was wishing “we could double bike, like forever.” Awwwwwww. He continues to express his feelings of frustration that Sonia won’t move back in, and hopefully Nick’s patience doesn’t run too thin while he waits for her. He’s already expressing frustration and confusing that she may not be interested in staying together and that he’s scared that the marriage may be over.

It was a little encouraging to hear some of Nick’s comments during unfiltered. He talks about how he and Sonia housed a little girl for a day (which we never say during filming), and about how he’s “just” ordered a new calendar for the two of them, speaking in present terms when it seems like the Unfiltered episodes were all filmed post decision day.

What do you think, will they stay together?? (please, please, please!)  Can’t wait until Tuesday’s finale!!

Married at First Sight Recap: Episode 11

Only two weeks left until decision day (Already?! We’re going to miss you MAFS!). In other words, two more weeks until an arbitrary, producer-determined time at which our couples have to make one, final public announcement of their mutual love and/or hate and finally be free of the camera crew and return to normal life. Unless they stay together and get picked up for MAFS: The First Year. (please don’t do this, Nick. But please, all of you, come back to live tweet next season and continue to share your insider perspective).

Anyway, two weeks until decision day and Sonia and Nick are living apart. Not a good sign. But what is totally amazeballs, in Sonia’s words, is that Sonia is taking Nick out to feed homeless people. Which has Nick feeling all the feels about how Sonia is “exactly the girl I want to be married to. Nick’s change of attitude is giving me a terrible sense of déjà vu. Last season there was a couple named Neil and Sam. They were that season’s “quirky couple” just like Sonia and Nick. Neil started the marriage totally enthusiastic, while Sam wasn’t that into him and reacted to the stress of whole situation with a bit of verbal diarrhea. By time Sam warmed up to Neil, Neil’s feelings had taken a beating. Decision day threw a total curveball with Sam wanting to stay together but Neil rejecting her. Sam ugly cried in the parking lot. It was terrible. Yes, Nick made a mistake but I definitely don’t wish that experience on him.

Speaking of Nick’s mistake, he provided a hint more insight into the whole insight during “Unfiltered,” by saying that he was “just trying to end the questioning.” It’s true that reality TV producers sometimes have to film the same responses repeatedly to get it just right. (from what I hear. I don’t know this first hand) It makes sense that (being drunk and tired), Nick would snap and blurt out something crazy. Though TV viewers would never hear it, I could imagine him finishing his rant about not liking or finding Sonia attractive by saying something like “there, is that what you want me to say, are you happy, will you leave me alone now?”

And he’s probably explained that all to Sonia, which would be why he’s somewhat nonchalant about his apology and the distance she needs to needs. Understandable… but despite the context, what he said was hurtful and Sonia is justifiable in being guarded. Though she seems to be doing an admirable job of not putting her walls up too high. Sonia is appreciative of how Nick has embraced “Sandwich Day” and recognizes that “he’s trying more than ever before.” What she’s failing to see that he’s also OPENING UP (!!!) by telling her how much he wants her to move back in. Unfortunately, she just sees this as him not understanding how much he’s hurt her and how she needs time and space to recover.

C’mon you guys, please get it together, you’re just too cute to break up! At least stay together so you can give things a chance off camera. We’re already SO over tired of the season’s first break up. I don’t even really want to acknowledge the whole Derek and Heather reunion because it was all just so forced and awkward. Really, “when do you want to file the papers?” Did that need to be asked?  Did we really need to open the door to snark from Derek about how he’s surprised that Heather didn’t have the papers in her pocket, because he had his pen ready.

Meanwhile, we once again have some MUD (made up drama) from Lilly and Tom to add a little suspense. Actually, I was kind of surprised to hear in “Unfiltered” that Lilly thought they had a challenge communicating when arguing. These two seem to have fantastic communication. This time, their disagreement is over Lilly’s workaholic ways. Given Lilly seems poised to be the breadwinner in this relationship, Tom might want to lighten up on this argument. But actually, Tom does an exemplarily job of picking his battles. I love following his internal dialogue as he starts off the evening annoyed that Lilly is late and that she hasn’t prepared vows like they had agreed to. But happily, he keeps himself together and doesn’t react. Because he soon learns that Lilly has invested time into preparing an amazing custom work of art for him. His appreciation of this gift could have been totally spoiled if it had been prefaced with pouty, grouchy guy. Tom chooses to embrace Lilly’s love language (how she shows love), instead of asking her to conform to his idea of how she should show him love. Tom seems to value quality time and appreciates when Lilly shows up on time and engages in conversation. Whether personality or culture, timeliness seems to be a struggle for Lilly, but she is one hell of gift giver! Hooray for Tom for recognizing that, and for giving us another classic quote to add to your Quotes from Tom calendar. “sometimes I get irritated, but I’m always happy to see my wife.”

Speaking of quality time, Lilly is also willing to give this gift to Tom as she sets out on a surfing adventure with Tom. Surfing is a tough sport with a huge learning curve. Learning to surf is frustrating enough without learning from your spouse (well, unless your spouse flirts with the surf instructor, in which case you’re probably better off learning from your spouse. Or maybe just not surfing at all). Anyway, Lilly is a rock star. No bitching or whining, no matter how many times she falls off and gets hit in the head. Although, we can’t help but wonder that if Lilly is facing upcoming shoulder surgery, does she really want to be out surfing?

The episode ends on a celebratory note for both couples. Lilly and Tom get friends together for bowling while Sonia and Nick’s Cinco de Mayo party is highlighted by some bad white boy dancing more friends telling them they need to work on their communication skills. Seriously, it’s becoming no surprise that Nick flipped out. Who wouldn’t when you, on one hand being forced to constantly answer repetitive questions while simultaneously being told to work harder on your communication. The guy can’t win. Plus, that’s an introvert’s hell.

Yay, no big cliff hangers for next week. Will Sonia move back in? (odds are on, yes) Will Lilly and Tom recover from their another little misunderstanding? Of course. What do you think, AmIRight?!

Married at First Sight Recap: Episode 10

Thank you MAFS for not making us wait too long to pick up where we left off last week with the Sonia and Nick cliff hanger. I definitely did not have the patience this week. Sonia has moved out because, as Nick puts it, “sometimes things get a little overwhelming and things get said that probably shouldn’t. Understatement of the year. Did Nick intentionally wear that “Ship happens” shirt as a subtle message to pastor Calvin? Like he’s trying to ship the blame?

Pastor Calvin appropriately calls him out for acting like a punk, but an interview with Dr. Pepper reveals an interesting perspective on Nick’s behavior. She explains that both Nick and Sonia were much more open during match making interviews than they have been with each other, and feels that the pressure of being filmed may explain some of their challenges.

“We saw Nick’s sincerity in wanting to do the experiment, and we also felt that he was far more affable with us than he was when pressed during the documentation,” Dr. Pepper explains. “Having a crew asking you to think very deeply about who you are and who the other person is, is very hard for some people – and I think it was especially hard on Nick.”

Nick’s meltdown absolutely has given us a glimpse into the fourth wall of reality TV, as Sonia commented that he yelled to “everyone” while she could still hear. Everyone being the film and production crew. This is also evidenced in their efforts to cover up the fact that they’ve had sex. They craved privacy so much that they hid the one single thing that they could actually keep between them. It was obviously really important to them, given how many lies they had to tell.  So we are left with some unanswered questions. Like, did this all go down before the tantric massage date? Did they not even need all that help from expert Rachel?

Not to excuse his behavior, but Dr. Pepper makes a great point. Living out intimate conversations and moments with a film and production crew in your face, asking repetitive questions really dogpiles the stress. Hopefully Dr. Pepper figured this out during the six weeks of the experiment and was able to talk to them about it – it could have been just the kind of self-awareness they needed.

Hamming it up for the camera

Tom and Lilly, on the other hand seem to either barely notice or totally ham it for the camera, as Tom did when he was squishing Lilly’s toothpaste. Wonder how many times he’ll be able to get away with that before Lilly stops laughing it off as cute hijinks? Please Tom, don’t be that stupid.

In the beginning, it felt like every episode opened with Tom and Lilly snuggling and lovey dovey. Now these two feel like they are always cleaning the house together. Talk about quickly becoming an old married couple. Hopefully not so too fast… they definitely need to keep that spark alive.

These two have no qualms about fully opening up to each other and all of America about their fears, insecurities and abandonment issues.  Insecurities like Tom’s hairy ass hobbit feet.  And his ex girlfriends. Tom takes Lilly to a place which (at least it sounds like) has previously been somewhere he went to escape the challenges of a faltering relationship.  It’s so sweet that he’s already comfortable enough with Lilly that he no longer needs this place as an escape. He trusts her enough to give up his solo retreat and share it with her.

Things are going so well for Lilly and Tom that Pastor Cal has to give them a reality check. “They want this so bad that they are starting to magnify things that aren’t that major and sabotage their marriage.”

Pastor Cal’s homework to the couples – taking each other to a meaningful location – definitely seems to be just what Nick and Sonia need. Because good Cuban food makes everything better. Sonia is so relaxed at home that she even lets it slip that she kinda misses Nick’s dogs. Nick speaks for all of us that he never thought he’d hear her say that.

This “homework” reminds me that we never really saw how Nick and Sonia did with their assignment to start and end each day with a physical gesture. Now we know that this homework would have felt a little unnecessary… or was it actually something that helped them get to the point of getting intimate? Anyway, the fact that they actually did seems like a good sign. Previous seasons have seen couples remain chaste for the entire six weeks. (or maybe they didn’t… maybe they were lying too? My world is rocked.)

Speaking of couples staying chaste, we conclude this episode with a Heather & Derek reunion cliff hanger. Hopefully Heather read the details of her contract and realized that choosing divorce doesn’t mean she gets to ditch the production crew and return to real life. Nope. Nope. Nope. Instead she gets to spend  four weeks rehashing her two week marriage ad nauseam. And giving us just enough teases (“makes me wonder, did I jump the gun?” “I wished we could have lived together”) to give us some hope for them. Nope, not going to happen. Even Derek has lost hope for reconciliation.

Going back to Dr. Pepper’s comment about the stress of the film crew.  That could also have factored into Heather’s behavior, as she seems just as private and uncomfortable in front of the camera. Just like Nick, she feels she has to drink in order to relax enough to be herself. This is a really unfortunate aspect to the show because part of what makes it so engaging is that it attracts personalities like Nick and Heather who aren’t seeking their 15 minutes of fame.

What do you think, what will be the outcome of Heather and Derek’s reunion next week – what is Derek talking about that’s “worth a try”? When will Sonia move back in with Nick?

Married at First Sight Recap: Episode 10

Up until now, the week seems really long as I (Aminda) anxiously anticipate the next MAFS episode. Like, I almost want to wait until it’s all over so I can binge watch it, and avoid the anticipation. This week was different though… knowing what was coming my eagerness turned to dread.

Expert Rachel concisely sums it this episode by pointing out that as couple’s settle into domestic routines, this can escalate the connection they are feeling and make it feel like a marriage, or make their little concerns feel overwhelming.

Overwhelming is the perfect way to describe Nick and Sonia’s awkward attempts at creating some domestic routines, like sharing breakfast, but those little efforts don’t seem to be going very far to bridge the great divide that is Sonia’s discomfort with Nick’s dogs. Sonia extends a major olive branch by inviting a trainer over to act as a neutral party in helping Sonia gain confidence and control around the dogs. This is a smart move and while Nick seems appreciative, he frustratingly makes it about him and feeling good to have “shared leadership responsibilities.” Instead of seeing, as Sonia says, that “this girl is really trying.”

Derek and Heather return – giving us a new and interesting perspective. In the past, couples who choose divorce on decision day, return for one quick “Six Months Later” episode and that’s the last we hear from them. Now we’re getting a glimpse into the aftermath of this short, intense experiment.

Now, I’ve totally defended Heather for doing what she needs to do, and I stand by that. But… it’s frustrating to hear her so bitter about Derek’s “below the belt name calling” of her being on a “high horse and acting like she’s in the 1940’s.” I mean, really? Seriously?  Those are horrible, irreconcilable insults? Dr. Pepper gracefully corrects her by pointing out that there is a different between honesty and cruelty. Because in nobody’s reality can “high horse” be considered cruel.

In her interview on Unfiltered, Heather commented that she thinks “Derek came in wanting to make it work with no matter who they put in front of him.” Proving what we’ve already guessed – she is Missing. The. Whole. Point.

Dr. Pepper wisely points out to Derek that she wouldn’t want to see him put in a situation where he wouldn’t be treated like he should be treated. From that perspective, Heather made the right call. Jamie Otis, season one participant who is still married, offered a great insider perspective on Heather’s decision

Married At First Sight: From One MAFS Bride To Another (And Giving You Another Perspective On Heather)

OK, what we really need right now is barefoot Tom hacking open a fresh coconut and casually mixing up a cocktail. It looks so much like his normal routine, almost like he just picked the coconut off the ground came from his own tree. If so, I’m kinda jealous. But not. Is having coconuts worth the risk of falling coconuts?

Tom’s surf bum style is a nice refreshing break from the drama. I’m craving coconut water. And spring. Definitely spring break.


Lovely Lilly just lets him have his outside time, knowing Tom is fully content, sipping and savoring his coconut while puttering around the patio. I love how she’s so confident that he’s just going to hang out there forever – at least long enough for her to have an uninterrupted chat with Tom’s brother about birthday party plans. Plans that include a last minute deep cleaning of the house, which has Tom baffled about her random spring cleaning craze. Lilly should have told him she was nesting.  But what a great guy to go along with it and such a fun, cooperative attitude instead of getting whiny.

Their conversation about poop was amazing and made me thankful that Josh and I have never had a home with only one bathroom, because a poop emergency really could happen! Love that Lilly just rolled with it and was so accommodating about finding a policy that would ensure nobody poops their pants. Good call – pants pooping is definitely not healthy in marriage.

Funny that Tom also jokes about Lilly’s dutch oven policy – because across town, that’s kinda what Nick is turning into – a fetid, obnoxious explosion. We feel a slow buildup as he explains how Sonia has shut down or walked away from past conflict, causing him to be more hesitant to open up (creating a vicious cycle), and that he’s “reassessing the situation” as they go… whatever that means, it doesn’t sound very optimistic.

The downward spiral of doom quickly turns ugly. I couldn’t even keep up. And don’t even really want to recap the conversation because it was Just. So. Sad. Glad I didn’t have any bets placed on these two, because I would have lost. They are so cute, what happened?

And here comes the emotional rollercoaster as Tom and Lilly revel  in a huge birthday love fest and the tears of sadness I’ve been choking back, slip out as tears of joy. Thanks Tilly for giving us a reason to return next week!

Married at First Sight Episode 8 Recap

So if this was the Bachelor, this episode might be hyped as the “most dramatic week yet”. It’s not the Bachelor (yay!) but there was still plenty of drama. We’re kept hanging for the Derek and Heather drama we all want to see.

Instead we start with the most dramatically confusing intro ever. Tom takes the dog for a walk. When he gets back, Lilly is gone and not responding to his text. We’re expecting her to show up all cheery and with coffee and bagels. Because that’s what we’re used to happening in RomComs. Couple has a one night stand. Girl wakes up to find guy not there. Girl panics, then breathes huge sigh of relief to find him downstairs making omelets and scones.

Turns out, Lilly’s been at a doctor’s appointment. Obviously Tom didn’t know in advance that Lilly had a doctor appointment, but the timing was still odd. Does Tom walk the dog for hours? If so, then he shouldn’t be surprised that Lilly gets tired of waiting and leaves. Or did Lilly have the shortest doctor’s appointment in history? I mean, it looked like she showed up right after he returned with the dog. Did she really drive round trip and have the appointment in the same time as a quick dog walk? So many questions, I could barely focus on the following conversation.

Lilly has found out that will require shoulder surgery, which sends her into a panic, not about the surgery, but about what it will mean to her relationship with Tom. Can she rely on him to support her during such a tough time? Will he balk at having to care for her so much, so soon?

Then it was so weird that expert Rachel suddenly arrived when Lilly is still in her PJ’s, as if Rachel is there for an emergency visit to counsel Lilly. But Rachel also visits Sonia and Nick, describing it as an “intimacy visit,” so it must have been pre-planned.

While we’re still pondering these deep thoughts, pastor Calvin throws us a curveball.

“Do Derek and Heather wish to abandon their commitment?”

Ummm… is that a trick question? Sure hope not, but I don’t know. Aren’t you supposed to tell us? That’s kind of why we’re all watching this week. Do we get to find out now, or do we have to wait another 40 minutes? Or will there be another cliff hanger? (that would be a pretty desperate move).

And the final answer is… Yes. Yes, Heather wishes to abandon her commitment. And we will never get to see these two ride their cute coordinating cruiser bikes to the beach together. We’ll never get to see them reveal their salaries on national TV or find out what happened to those mugs they left back at the honeymoon hotel.

Instead, Derek and Heather part ways with a cursory “good luck.”

But, optimistic expert Rachel reminds that we still have two couples. Can’t really say how happy they are, because Sonia and Nick are still debriefing the previous night’s fight. These two are some expert debriefers.

This time, Nick is going to take some action, dang it. He plans a very nice date with Sonia’s favorite flower and lots of wine. “We’re going to do a little wine tasting, maybe get a little drunk.”

Seriously, that was a lot of wine. And no one was clearing the table of those empty glasses. (unless production though having 20 glasses on the table would be a nice visual) But it still wasn’t enough wine to bring on the whoopee. Whomp, whomp.

But seriously, sex isn’t going to happen if Sonia keeps haven’t sleep with the dog. Didn’t Dr. Pepper address that last week? Here comes expert Rachel to try a different approach.

Just when we thought these two couldn’t get any more awkward… here comes a totally cringeworthy explanation about why Nick hasn’t DTD with Sonia. He is clearly choosing his words carefully (knowing Sonia will be watching this conversation someday) and mumbling something vague about previous flings and being able to choose them upfront and having a attraction right away. Ouch.

At least Rachel gives him some practical advice to “open up about your lack of openness.” At least that gives him something to work with, instead of just being pushed to “open up.”

I’m going to jump waaaaay ahead hear, because this scene almost feels like foreshadowing to the preview for next week’s episode where Nick finally loses it about being told to open up. (saw that one coming) Seriously, my heart sank to hear Nick saying “I don’t like her, I’m not attracted to her.” Ugh. I’m kinda dreading the next episode now. I’ve rewatched, trying to figure out if maybe, hopefully, it was pulled out of context… but it sure doesn’t seem like it. It feels especially out of left field after the high note that this episode left these this couple. After a cozy threeway snuggle fest with a therapist, Sonia says she feels “ like I could have sex with my husband right now. Maybe it will happen tonight.”

I’m going to have a bottle of wine and box of tissue ready for the next episode. Between watching Nick’s confession and watching Derek have to tell his mom that the marriage is over… I just don’t know if I’m emotionally prepared for that. We catch a glimpse of Derek easing his way back into his old life and it’s already heartbreaking. “Maybe I’m supposed to be along. What was it about me that was so bad, so unbearable that she wanted to quit and walk away so soon?”

mafs He obviously can’t feel like that anymore, with hundreds of women in the Twittersphere swooning over him and planning Spring Break in Miami.

Messy Marriage

Married at First Sight Recap: Episode 7

This episode, For Better or for Worse, starts out with the worse. Derek is doing the Face Time walk of shame with his BFF. Instead of bragging about chemistry, adventure and romance on his honeymoon, he’s confessing fighting, silent treatment and rejection.

Expert Rachel is optimistic and hopeful, Derek doesn’t want to quit… but Heather is still struggling. At first she gets a sympathetic ear from her friend Amber, but then Amber quickly gives her some tough love.  “You cannot walk away from him.” And “do you think there’s anything you could have done differently?” Heather seems to take this to heart, as she actually says that the best thing that could happen would be “staying married to this man,” which is a total 180 from the place she was in the last day at the honeymoon.

The other couples are basically on an episode of “The Marriage Ref”, (a fun  show that only lasted a couple seasons, where couples had a team of celebrities determine which one of them was right and wrong in a disagreement.) Dr. Pepper is making house calls to serve as the “Ref.” (Great to see Dr. Pepper, she’s the best!)

First up are Nick and Sonia who are disagreeing about several things. First on the stand is their lack of physical intimacy. Nick argues that the physical side will, and should, come organically. Nick also defines intimacy as being close enough to read each other’s mind. Does he realize that to know someone that well, you actually have to talk to them first? Like, you can’t just skip the talking and jump to mind reading. Anyway, I digress. Sonia would like more physical intimacy, and for Nick to use touch to express his care. (Instead of cleaning the kitchen… which she might not want to complain about, because she’ll probably appreciate that in the future, am I right?)

In this case, the winner is Sonia. Dr. Pepper is gentle on Nick, giving them some homework to help them get used to being a little more affectionate with each other. I LOVE how they both took notes in their meeting with Dr. Pepper. Because that’s the kind of nerdy thing I would do, I write everything down.

Sonia was also the winner of the great dog debate. Well, actually it was kind of a tie, because the dogs are still living there, but at least Nick was quick to concede that the dogs would no longer sleep with them. Though really should never have been a deliberation. Sonia made it clear that the bed was where she drew the line on sharing a home with dogs.

Tom and Lilly are cooking and cleaning and acting like an old married couple… until a conversation about procreation reminds everyone that two weeks into the relationship is too soon for this conversation.  And in this episode of “The Marriage Ref”, I vote for a tie. Lilly is right that this is an important conversation to have, but Tom is also right in wanting to go through some of the natural steps of relationship building. Dr. Pepper decides more in favor of Tom because, as Lilly says “I get it, women tend to get crazier than the man in a relationship.” (Please call Sonia and remind her of this!) Dr. Pepper did not let Tom completely off the hook though and give him the wise advice to “avoid getting into defense positions where fear is motivator.” (Love you, Dr. Pepper!)

Eventually Tom puts Lilly’s mind at ease, not with words but with his actions, which is even better. Even after telling us that toddlers are a-holes (truth), he throws himself into babysitting  Lilly’s niece. Clearly Tom is just a big kid himself, who seems to be totally in his element playing air hockey and crafting bubble blowers and fart noise makers. And eating so much he gets a food baby. (just can’t drop the baby talk!) Lilly gives more details on how awesome Tom did at babysitting in her blog for People. Wonder what Tom thought when he saw that while he was outside babysitting, Lilly and her sister were having such a fun time visualizing Tom living in a hotdog bus.bus

The we get to see Jim and Marie (yay!), who are so cute, flirting like crazy in the kitchen and saying sweet things like “Just being with your mother is so wonderful, she makes you feel warm and fuzzy.” Sonia is super positive, not only about having a mother in law, but getting cooking lessons from her and learning more about Nick.

Poor Nick is getting heaps of advice on how he needs to open up more and communicate better… but really seems at a loss as to what that looks like on a practical level. He genuinely seems to think he’s trying really hard.

Finally, this episode comes fully circle bringing us back to the Derek Heather decision day drama. And the worst cliffhanger ever. For anyone new to the show, this scene happens each season for all three couples. The premise of the show is that couples commit to staying married for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks, they sit down with one of the experts, who does a little recap of their experience, then asks each of them individually if they want to stay married or get a divorce.  In three season, there have been nine couples. Two are still together. One couple mutually decided to stay together at decision day, but divorced within a few months after. There was one couple in Season 3 that had a pretty rocky six weeks. They had mostly patched things up by the end, leading the wife to decide to stay married, but the husband asked for a divorce. (ouch). So, that leaves five couples, the majority, who have mutually decided to divorce.

So, anyway, those are the possible outcomes for Derek and Heather next week. As the voiceover has said, this is the first time the show has given an opportunity to a couple to jump straight to decisions day so soon.  What’s unknown is whether, should they choose to finish the experiment, will they have to go through decision day again at the end?  Is the cliffhanger a sign that they are divorcing sooner rather than later? (Like to keep them as part of the story line as long as possible.)

Heather dropped a few hints in this episode  that she might be willing give it another shot, but then in her interview for “Unfiltered”, she didn’t even utter Derek’s name, instead talking about marriage in vague futuristic terms. It was pretty clear that they didn’t stick it out for six weeks, so staying together until then seems futile.

Yes, we can argue all of the reasons why she could try harder and give it another chance. And those reasons may be positive and valid. But the reality is, her intuition is loudly yelling at her to get out, and a woman’s intuition is usually going to win over logic. Can’t judge her for that.  If she decides not to continue, it doesn’t make her cold and heartless or bad at relationships. It just means that this relationship didn’t work out for her. Hopefully the next one will. What do you think, do they stay together for two weeks? Six?