Well, we just returned from our annual Christmas trip to Southern California. Julian had a blast going to all the different houses and being hugged, kissed, squeezed, and adored by all his maternal relatives. We visited back in May when Julian was about five months old, but we only stayed for a weekend. We stayed for a full week this time, so rather than rush around and only spend a few hours here and there, we came pretty close to getting decent quality time with lots of people.
Baby J and I started out the day with a nightmarish (3.5 hours in San Jose airport due to fog) + (1.25 hours crammed into a small airplane seat with now exhausted and squirmy baby, next to a barely baby-tolerating businessman with very bad breath) + (40 minutes waiting for baggage) + (45 minutes car rental + car seat installation) + (1 hour driving to and from airports). Julian was very good, he only cried a little in the car, once we were out of the public eye. On the plane itself he was fine, just very squirmy and wanting to grab everything, especially the magazine that the businessman next door was reading. For some reason I felt shy about nursing him with a zillion people packed all around us, so I didn't. I fed him O's slowly and gave him sips of water from his bottle to keep his ears equalized. I got over that shyness pretty quickly once we arrived. I mean, I have good nursing clothes, it's easy to breastfeed him without anyone even *suspecting* most of the time. Maybe because Dan wasn't with us? I think I just haven't traveled enough lately.
We went to my grandparents' house in Leisure World to visit and spend the night. After the hectic flying-with-a-baby-alone experience, the slow pace of 86-year-old life at Leisure World was just my style. We ate (them like birds, me ravenously), played with the baby, chatted a little bit, ate some more, and then went to bed by 8:00pm. When we went out to get some take-out Greek food, Nanny offered to hold Julian on her lap in the front seat. I told her that we had to put him in the car seat in back, it's a law now, and she looked disdainfully at the contraption like it was a torture device, which lately Julian thinks it is. It didn't help when Julian started to bawl his eyes out as soon as his butt touched the car seat. I didn't blame him after our long day, and Nanny gave me some sad eyes on his behalf, but hey, he has to ride in the car seat. Come on now, people.
Julian is the best visitor for old people. They don't have to follow any threads of conversation with him, or stay on topic, or Julian doesn't care if they ask him the same question over and over. Watching Nanny with Julian, you wouldn't think that she has any memory troubles at all. She picks him up and makes funny faces, holds him on her lap, sings songs, plays with toys, tells him how much she loves him and what a wonderful, wonderful boy he is...it's a perfect love match. Every time she picks him up she says, "My goodness, he is SOLID! How much does he weigh?", but she keeps picking him up, she just can't keep her hands off him. I'm thinking that I should take him in to visit old ladies in nursing homes back home. Old men are a different story. He is not a fan at all and always gives old men who coo at him the cold stare. He warms up after a week or so, but it's an uphill battle. He's all about the ladies.
The big game at Nanny and Bopah's was taking Reader's Digest magazines one by one off the coffee table and dropping them to the floor. When we put them back on the table he would pounce on the magazines and drop them off again, then laugh. We also played this game with placemats off the kitchen table, and that was fun. He explored the bookshelf full of National Geographics, and Nanny fed him some avocado and cooked carrots, which they both enjoyed. She asked if she could feed him a little bit of her ice cream, and I said OK, but just a tiny little bit. So she gave him a little spoon tip of ice cream. But then she forgot, and a minute later she was asking if he could try a little ice cream. I had to tell her that she just gave him some, and he couldn't have any more. I don't like to do that. It embarrasses her when she forgets things. In retrospect, I should have just told her that I didn't want him to have any.
I got some reading and showering time in while Nanny and Julian were having their love fest, which was fabulous, and I also got caught up on my sleep. When Julian was napping I didn't have anything else to do, so I napped with him, which certainly beats doing dishes (my usual naptime task).
The next afternoon we left to go pick up our Christmas hams and turkey in Corona del Mar, and then back north to stay with my mom at her apartment in Long Beach. Wow, a whole *new* environment to explore, and an adoring grandmother! He crawled into every corner, explored kitchen cabinets and feng shui fountains, and tried to pinch the goldfish through the glass of the fish tank. Mom swears he said "cute fish". I'm not denying or confirming...I was in the bathroom taking another one of those newfangled hot showers that I've heard so much about. Ahhhhhh....having a baby sure does improve the quality of life. Ever since Julian was born, a long solo hot shower feels like a luxury spa experience.
Next day we picked up Dan at the airport and went to my Dad's rental beach house on Balboa. Every year we stay there for a week at Christmas in return for organizing the Hamilton family Christmas Day dinner and party. It's win-win for everyone...we get a nice beach house to stay in right on the sand, and everyone else gets to celebrate together there without having to worry about cooking an entire dinner or having a big mess to deal with in their own house afterwards.
Last year I went to town and cooked a Christmas goose, ham, and a zillion other things, plus we decorated the house. I was 8 months pregnant and it was exhausting but fun. This year I kept it low-key and asked people to bring a dish, and for my part I got two Honeybaked hams and a turkey breast, made a big pot of wonderful mashed potatoes, sauteed some carrots and broccoli, and that was it. We had tons of food, it worked out fine. Dinner was very tasty and I actually got to sit back and eat my dinner at a leisurely pace, drink wine, and visit with my cousins while all the experienced mamas (and my uncle Dave) took turns passing Julian around and loving him up. Wonderful!
Let's see, what else? The weather was beautiful, warm and sunny T-shirt weather during the day, chilly at night, but not *too* chilly. We did a lot of nice walks along the beachfront. Julian saw the ocean for the first time, and was impressed, but didn't want to play *too* close to the water's edge. He loved the sand between his fingers and toes, and speed-crawled around examining driftwood. He didn't try to eat the sand directly, but he did chew on a sandy stick with about the same result. We saw a sea lion cavorting in the waves right off shore, chasing small fish right up to the sand. He was being followed closely by a motley flock of pelicans, gulls and other seabirds who would eat the small fish fleeing the sea lion. All the little silver fish jumping out of the way made it look like someone was throwing handfuls of loose change on the water.
There were a lot of other people watching, including one couple who were whooping hysterically at each sighting, pumping their fists in the air, and each calling someone on their cell phone to tell them about the sea lion.
Balboa looks like it's getting more upscale. There were actually some decent restaurants open instead of just the usual overpriced tourist traps and corn dog/Balboa bar shops and dive bars. We had good fish tacos and excellent teriyaki without leaving the peninsula. I suppose merchants are finally figuring out that they should cater to the locals if they want to really make money.
We spent Christmas Eve with Dad, Peggy, and Julian's little Aunt Lisa and Uncle Jimmy, who are 5 and 7 years old. Dad and Peggy had a lovely big tree and lots of festive Christmas lights and decorations, and Julian had tons of toys to play with, although he found his aunt and uncle more fascinating than anything, especially Lisa, who combines his favorites traits of a) being female and b) being little. We call him the Babylover. He just LOVES other babies and kids. He immediately lights up and starts babbling excitedly when he sees anyone under 12 years old. See a photo of him in the airport below, under the December 2004 photo section. There was a little girl playing with her sister on the floor. Julian just crawled right up to her and they spontaneously hugged each other. It was too funny. Julian would break away from her, crawl a few feet away, then come right back for more squeezing.
I was a very bad mother and I totally neglected to take any photos whatsoever on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I'm relying on the other family members who *did* snap pics (Jimmy? Polly? Heidi?) to send me copies of the photos that *they* took. I don't know what happened, I guess I was just too busy playing and doing stuff to actually pick up a camera. It happens sometimes. When and if I get some photos, I'll of course post them here.
Julian had a developmental burst while we were in So. CA. He had a fabulous time crawling around on the wide open carpeted spaces of the beach house. I think he doubled his top crawling speed (see the videos of him speed-crawling under the December 2004 photo section). He also stood up on his own without support for the very first time. One time he stood up with a toy in his hands and stayed standing for about 5 seconds before plopping down. He did that a lot on our vacation, but hasn't done it since. Oh well.
He also figured out how to get *down* stairs. I have been teaching him to swing one leg down over the edge of a step, then slide down on his belly until both legs touch the ground. He sort of got it, but then he would also just try to go down headfirst sometimes, with predictably bad results. That put him off attempting to descend steps at all for a while, but suddenly he was going up and down the first three stairs at the beach house, and doing it perfectly.
Other breakthroughs...Julian actually said "doggie" while pointing to a dog, and he said it several times very clearly! And he learned how to drink from his bottle on his own. He could hold it just fine before, but he just figured out how to tip the bottom end up so that liquid flows into the nipple. Ah, the crucial missing piece. So our baby has grown up quite a bit in the span of just one week. I think the stimulation of traveling and seeing different places and people has made a huge difference. We should do it more often! He's really a good little traveler.
His sleeping schedule was all over the map, but it worked out fine. If we were visiting with people and he stayed up late one night, then he would wake up late the next day and take an early nap, and usually an extra nap as well. He also started napping in his car seat again, thank GOD, because for a while he wasn't. In fact, I had some traumatic experiences with him in his car seat after dark where he would be exhausted and didn't like being in the dark car, so he would just scream bloody murder for the entire ride and not fall asleep. There is nothing more nerve-shredding than to be trapped in a car with your screaming baby for oh, 30-40 minutes at a time, and not be able to do anything about it. Now he's back to just crying for a minute or two before he falls asleep.
I felt like I had a vampire in the back seat. Darkness would be fast approaching (nice and early too, around 5-5:30pm, ugh) and as the sun went down I would feel Baby Dracula stirring and the evil rising within my formerly good, well-behaved, enjoying-the-car-ride baby. Little cries would morph into mind-bending screams as darkness descended on the car, and my pathological fear of red lights returned in full force. Every little car trip after dark seemed like it took hours, we hit every possible red light, and traffic was always ten times worse than usual. Just awful. I really, really hope that period is over.
Dan started coming down with a cold on Christmas night, so he didn't join us on our overnight visit with cousin James and his lovely wife Chandra at their digs in northern San Diego county. They have all kinds of delicious fruit and avocado trees on their property in the rolling hills east of Oceanside. They are hoping to join us in parenthood soon, and I wish them much luck! Maybe their #1 will coincide with our #2? I suppose we'll be thinking about #2 soon enough.
James and Chandra collect rare vinyl, so it was somewhat challenging keeping my little media whore from pulling out, examining, and chewing on their irreplaceable albums. Also a task to keep him away from the beautiful coffee table books (that I wanted to explore myself!) and the floor-level shelves of tiki-themed ceramics and glassware. So many baby temptations and perils! Every time I put Julian down he made a beeline for one or another of the prohibited items, and I saw pure fear flit across James' face. We successfully kept him distracted though, and he didn't do any damage. Whew!
Time to go home after that. Sooooo much easier to have Dan with me when travelling. He carried the heavy bags, entertained Julian, and between the two of us we got the aisle seat, the window seat, and reserved the middle seat for Julian to play in. Southwest Airlines really works well for us as parents of a baby. We get to board first, and no one is assigned to that middle seat, so if we can intimidate people a little and keep them from sitting between us, we have that seat for Julian. Makes a huuuuge difference! On the plane ride home I nursed Julian on and off the whole way and he played with his toys in the empty seat. No crying, but he talked baby talk VERY loudly the whole way, which was funny.
There was a mom with an older baby in the seats across the aisle, and she was asking me about Julian's sling, where I got it, etc. At the end of the trip he was peeking across at her daughter and smiling and babbling to her (to no response) and the mom asked if he was an expressive baby. "Are you kidding? Didn't you hear him talking the ENTIRE plane trip?" Well yes, that's why she asked. She bet he would be speaking real words in no time, being so precociously verbal.
There was another toddler on board whom Julian had smiled at and talked to in the airport, but he didn't respond either. What's up with the anti-social babies? Anyway, his mom made a comment about how her boy didn't really like other kids, or didn't notice them, and then she looked wistfully at Julian sitting there all beaming and chirping and friendly.
Yes, our baby is the best, it's true. ;-)
Well, it's good to be home, but it hasn't been all fun and games. Julian caught Dan's cold, and I think he is teething pretty hard as well, though I don't see or feel any budding teeth. He has been miserable and fussy and hardly napping at all for the past 2-3 days, and last night was the worst night I've had with him since his newborn days. He was up at 1:00am for over an hour just screaming his lungs out, and continued on and off until about 5:00am. Horrible. I tried everything, I still don't know what was wrong.
I assumed he must be in terrible pain, but then suddenly something I tried would distract him and he would chirp happily and climb around in bed giggling until the next wave of screaming started. He wanted to nurse nonstop, but he was also gnawing pretty hard (teething symptom) and I'm sure my milk tank was on empty, so I took him off and that set off a fresh wave of screams. I dug out an old pacifier and gave that to him out of desperation, and as soon as he saw it he stopped screaming and started playing with it. Sort of chewing, but more just playing around. So I'm pretty sure it wasn't pain, or at least not really bad pain. I don't know what that was about, but it wore my patience *extremely* thin listening to him scream all night long and getting almost no sleep. This morning he was whining and I just had no sympathy left. Talk to Daddy about it, OK? I'm sorry you don't feel good, I really am, but 3 days of 24/7 fussy baby care with no breaks makes Mama just a *wee* bit crabby herself, you know?
Julian took a decent nap this morning finally, and that was enough of a break to make me feel loving and patient again. Dan is not working today, so he took J and Bugs out for a walk while I put together this journal, and when he gets back he'll do some baby care while I go for a swim. I've done zero exercise in about 3 or 4 weeks and I feel weak and saggy and crappy overall. My legs and butt are pathetic white, flabby, bruised appendages with no discernible muscle mass whatsoever. Yeesh, I had pretty good muscle tone not too long ago, but it has completely disappeared during my recently inert period. Of course, I had plans to take J to the club daycare in the afternoon so I could start exercising again, but since he has a cold now, that's gone by the wayside. And it's been raining almost nonstop since we got home. Cold outside! I'm so excited to move to our new house, where we have a gas fireplace that we can snuggle up next to when it gets chilly.
Well, I just heard the door open downstairs, so looks like Team Baker is home from their walk and it's time for me to go swim. Today is the end of 2004. Happy New Year 2005!