Monday, November 30, 2009

[Ed. Note: Sometimes, I start a post and then get sidetracked--by Hadley, most often, but sometimes by the thought that the muse will visit later, that there's a better version of whatever I'm going to write if I just wait to write it. Classic writer's procrastination stuff. So this has been sitting in my "drafts" folder for a while. For it's tardiness, it's no less sincere.]

I tried to resist this urge for a few days--because it's rather clich├ęd--but I can't help listing a few of the less obvious things for which I am thankful. This list is not exhaustive--how could I ever list all of the blessings in my life? But this weekend, I'm feeling especially grateful for this good stuff:

--Christmas movie reruns. I love A Christmas Story ("You'll shoot your eye out!") and Miracle on 34th Street and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (both the animated and the Jim Carrey versions). But first, every year, comes Elf--which my mother thinks is the dumbest movie on the planet, but I like it. Very much. It reminds me of the Thanksgiving that Jason and I spent with our friends the Mixers in Chicago. That was the first time I saw Elf, and we had a smashing good time. So there, Mom.

--Glowy things, like our fireplace--which finally works!--and the Christmas tree, which is newly adorned in lights.

--Random acts of kindness performed by my little one. Today Hadley and I went to the grocery store, where no fewer than a dozen people stopped me because Hadley grinned at them (which I couldn't see because I was carrying her in the Bjorn). She's like a little goodwill ambassador. And we all could use a little more goodwill in our lives, especially the kind spread by a cute, round cherub of a baby.

--A husband who is a doer. Jason made most of Thanksgiving dinner, did most of the clean-up afterward and never uttered a complaint. In fact, he was his good-humored self at the end of the day. Jason is excellent at showing the people he loves that he loves them, and that's a trait I hope Hadley learns from him.

--Dancing in the kitchen. Jason will not be thrilled that I shared this with the world, but he and Hadley often waltz around our kitchen. She likes it. Sometimes we all have a little dance party in the kitchen. She likes that, too. So do I.

(Secret video footage coming soon.)

--Good wool socks. There's just no reason to have crappy wool socks. Life's too short.

--Naked babies.

--Beautiful paper.

--The fun that comes from downloading a series of photos (of Hadley) onto our computer and flipping through them.

--My Granny's handmade Christmas ornaments. We hang them on our tree every year, and I love that each is a one-of-a-kind original that one day, I will pass on to my kids.

--Graham crackers covered in Nutella and dipped in a large glass of very cold skim milk.

--The way Hadley stretches out her arms for me. Every time it happens, my breath gets a little shallow. If I think about it for too long--her reaching for me, this baby who I've reached for a million times already--I get choked up.

--And the glorious, glorious fact that this list could go on for a long while.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Part Deux

On Tuesday, we bid a fond farewell to the Ritz and headed into downtown San Francisco by way of the Pacific Coast Highway. It was a beautiful drive, but Hadley was none too happy about being in her car seat, so it was also a rather loud drive. And sort of stressful.

We pulled into the Westin in downtown San Francisco, and my first thought was, "Uh-oh, what am I going to do with Hadley in a downtown hotel?" It's one thing to be beside the ocean with plenty of room to play. It's another to be trapped in a hotel with sirens and cars and a 24-floor ride in the elevator to get out.

But, it turns out that Hadley loves the city. The more people, cars and lights, the better. That evening, we popped Hadley in her stroller and walked a few blocks to a microbrewery. She was enthralled. And the next morning (Wednesday), after Jason went to work, we strolled around town, past a guy who was yelling at his imaginary friend, around the Moscone Center with its beautiful water features, to a bakery where I grabbed breakfast and back to the hotel.

Speaking of the hotel, I began to wonder if the Westin has only one doorman because the same guy always opened the door for us. And he always smiled this huge, amazed smile at her. And Hadley returned the favor. I saw her in the reflection of the big glass doors, shooting this charming, open-mouthed grin at the doorman. Hey, I'd run to open the door if I got that kind of reward, too.

My friend Becky works for the state government, so she had Wednesday off for Veteran's Day. She rode her bike into the city--she's such a champ like that--and met Hadley and me outside our hotel to escort us a few short blocks to her husband Kent's art gallery. Oh, the gallery was fabulous. Beautiful and smart and inspiring. It made me think of all the BIG DREAMS that each of us carries around. Kent and Becky carried theirs around for a while...and then they pursued one of them. And it rocks.

Becky, my sweet scientist friend, launched into explanations of the art--the artists, their media, their personalities, how they came to be represented by the gallery. It was fascinating. Kent answered all of my questions, even the kind of dumb ones, with patience and sincerity. Hadley, meanwhile, enjoyed the attention that Becky and Kent gave her in between showing me the art. I think she appreciated the artwork, too.

Becky and I walked to the Ferry Building, the gorgeous building where you can catch the boat to other communities across the bay. It's also home to a great marketplace, full of shops that offer my favorite things: cheese, wine, bread, chocolate, flowers and gelato. There are also meat shops, a mushroom shop, a grocery, a restaurant or two--the list is long. But it's all fabulous and fun and worth a stroll. Becky bought us lunch--a hunk of crusty bread, a hunk of Mount Tam cheese, olives and chocolate--and we sat outside and had the best picnic I've had in a long time. It was a beautiful sunny day, and Hadley seemed to enjoy the picnic, too--mostly by smiling and "talking" to the people behind us, who were trying to have a lunch of their own.

Becky and Hadley by the Bay Bridge behind the Ferry Building.

From there, we trekked to the entrance to Chinatown, where Becky snapped this photo of Hadley and me...

...and then we made our way through Union Square, where a rather large number of people were ice skating, and then back to our hotel.

Hadley was such a good girl the entire time. She needed to take a nap by the time we got back to the hotel, but you never would have known it. She just took it all in, soaked up all of the sights and sounds and smells, and probably would have happily gone for another hour if I had let her.

Hadley before a bath at the hotel...

That night, Jason wanted to see Kent's gallery before it closed at 6:00, so we stopped by again before dinner at a local Mexican place that Kent and his business partner Eli recommended. (It was delicious.) I think Hadley was pretty well done by the time our meals arrived, so we took turns entertaining her while the other person ate, but considering all of the places I had schlepped her that day, I was impressed that she was so good for so long.

On Thursday morning, Hadley and I went back to the Ferry Building to buy a couple of gifts for Mumsie and Granddaddy. On our way back, we passed a strike in front of one of the hotels, where a stream of people paraded, chanted and occasionally banged a drum. Hadley's eyes grew to twice their normal size as she watched the mass of people, and then she turned in her stroller, looked up at me and grinned, as if to say, "That was cool, Mom. Thanks." I had been worried that she'd freak out, but no, she digs a good protest. That might not bode well for her teenage years...

The rest of the story is rather dull: We checked out, headed back to the airport and checked in, only to discover that our flight was two hours' delayed. So we pulled out all of the tricks we knew to keep Hadley happy, and they worked. By the time we got home at 9:00 that night, she was exhausted--and she let us know it--but overall, she was an excellent traveler.

Oh! I promised a bit about the red beret. Mumsie bought Hadley a red beret before our trip, so Hadley sported it at the Ritz and one morning in San Francisco (until she started taking it off and throwing it over the edge of her stroller). She looked urbane, like a tiny French artiste. I didn't get a photo in SF, but here's a shot of Hadley modeling at home:

Jason has a break from business travel until mid-late January, and we're enjoying a long Thanksgiving celebration this week. Hadley would be up for another trip at any second, I'm sure of it, but her mommy needs a rest. This week, as we celebrate the blessings in our lives, I'm thankful that we got to see the Baers, spend some time together and see a beautiful part of the country.

Oh, and I'm thankful for the simple joy we got from the friendly doorman and the red beret...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

San Francisco=Success

We've returned from our first family vacation (I use the term "vacation" very loosely), and I'm pleased to report that it went swimmingly. Hadley is an exceptional little traveler; she loved the airport, she loved the city, she even loved a protest we passed during an early morning walk in the Financial District. She was enthralled by it all.

"Vacation" is, I admit, a bit of a misnomer. Jason worked every day we were there--Hadley and I just tagged along on a business trip he had had planned for a while--but we did get to spend some time together (more than we would have if Hadley and I had stayed home). I was nervous before we left: What would I do with a six-month-old in a hotel room without most of Hadley's toys? How would she be on the airplane? What if we all got swine flu?

But Hadley was great on the airplane--even sleeping for about 45 minutes until the 18-month-old behind us began his oh-so-charming "mama" chant and woke her up. She worked the crowd, smiling and cooing and giggling as people paraded off the airplane past us. She was fascinated by the airport, and by the time we got the rental car, I fed her and she zonked out in her car seat for most of the ride down to Half Moon Bay.

Oh, Half Moon Bay, how I love thee. We stayed at the Ritz on the water--really, it's a rough life--and it was beautiful. Sometimes I forget how much I love the sound of the waves on the shore, or the smell of salt in the air, but this trip reminded me of these good, simple pleasures. After an afternoon nap (for Hadley and me), we walked out behind the hotel to watch the sun sink into the ocean, while a bagpiper played "Amazing Grace" on a hill overlooking the 18th hole. Seriously. I'm not making that up.

Hadley sat in a high chair like the little lady she is while Jason and I ate dinner that night, and she slept very well in the Ritz-provided crib (which, frankly, was a crappy little thing that I'd expect from the LaQuinta, not the Ritz).

The next day our friends Becky and Kent drove down from San Francisco to spend the afternoon with us. They were so sweet with Hadley, and I could tell that she adored them right away. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: I'm still surprised by the well of gratitude I feel for people in our lives who love on Hadley. It's such a unique joy to see our beloved friends love our daughter.

We walked down on the beach, where Kent and Becky took turns holding Hadley. She loved it and rewarded us all with big smiles.

Jason had meetings, so the rest of us trekked into the little town of Half Moon Bay for lunch and then to a surf beach not far away, where we watched surfers play in the water. Hadley practically said, "Hang ten, dude." Practically.

We headed back to the hotel, where we met up with Jason and lounged on the oversized Adirondack chairs overlooking the water. Again, rough life. Poor us.

That night, Jason had a Big Important Dinner, so Hadley and I were on our own. We opened one of the windows in the hotel room so we could hear the sounds of the ocean, and Hadley fell asleep nursing. I laid beside her in our bed and listened to her breathe and to the waves pawing at the beach, and felt total peace. Such goodness, I kept thinking. Such goodness.

Jason had a day full of meetings on Monday, so the Hadster and I played together all day. We walked along the coastal trail, which I loved and Hadley tolerated. I think the wind was bothering her a bit, though I tried to keep the stroller "awning" (what's that thing called?) pulled down in front of her. Of course, then it blocked her view and she fussed at it. Lose, lose.

After lunch, we headed down to the swimming pool for Hadley's inaugural swim. I changed her into her bathing suit (pink gingham with ruffles and cherries embroidered at the top), and she looked so precious, I just wanted to squeeze her. So I did. Then we got into the pool and Hadley pulled her legs under her and crossed them at the shins, like a tiny Buddha baby. She just let me hold her in the water, where she bobbed in this funny position for a minute or two. I laughed, so she grinned. Then I pulled her through the water, and she stuck her legs out behind her and kicked. She splashed and looked at me like, "Mom, why are you making such a mess?"

I had forgotten how buoyant the water makes a person, and it sure felt good on my tired arms to have a little support for Hadley's weight.

After about 30 minutes, the big kids' splashing got to be too much, and Hadley made it clear she was ready to go. But I'd say our first swim was a big hit!

I'm off to bed, but tomorrow, I'll give you the second half of our adventure, which includes flirting with bellhops, wearing berets and cruising through San Francisco like the hip chics we are. G'night.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hadley's First Holiday

Unless you count Memorial Day (which, ironically, I hardly remember this year) and Labor Day (when we had a smashing good party), Hadley hadn't experienced a real holiday until yesterday. She woke up after a good night's rest and was her usual jolly self after a few days of a cold, so Jason and I decided that we were ready for our Halloween adventure: Boo at the Zoo.

Our friends Jill and Craig, who we met in labor and delivery class and whose daughter Harper is nine days younger than Hadley, had invited us to join them at this grand event. We thought it sounded splendid. (Ok, the truth is just that I liked the name; I knew nothing about it, but it's the zoo. How complicated can it be?)

So we dressed Hadley in her "Cutest Pumpkin in the Patch" onesie--our faithful readers will remember this outfit as the same one that got, ahem, soiled on our way to the pumpkin patch--and took a few pre-zoo pictures:

Yes, that's snow you see in the background.

And we piled into the car and headed to the zoo.

We knew we were in trouble when we were a few miles from the zoo and saw signs in a high school parking lot for "Boo in the Zoo Parking: FREE SHUTTLE!" Oh, no, I thought. Riding the shuttle with an almost-six-month-old is not an option, and one of my little (and perhaps charming) quirks is that I HATE remote parking. Hate it. I don't like to be that far from my car, in case I need to make a quick getaway. Weird, but true.

We forged on because we're new parents and Hadley had her pumpkin onesie on and we had promised her the ZOO for heaven's sake. After cruising the parking lot for a good 10 minutes, we found a spot inhabited by Red Riding Hood's mom (who drives a Volvo, in case you're wondering and who graciously waved at us, as if to say, "I bequeath this spot to you and your pumpkin cherub in the backseat!" I've always liked Red Riding Hood.)

Jason put Hadley on the Bjorn, we packed the stroller with various baby equipment and our camera, and we headed into the zoo. Which was a zoo. There were tiny Transformers and bubble bees and cows--a lot of cows, oddly--and skeletons and princesses. I realized that Boo at the Zoo means trick-or-treating at various stops throughout the zoo, so in addition to the excitement of the ZOO, kids are juiced up on the excitement of HALLOWEEN and the sheer power of SUGAR. Whew! The tiny trifecta!

But the weather was glorious, and Hadley loved being outside and looking at all of the other kids. She looked mildly peeved when Harper showed up wearing an adorable flower costume--"Where's my costume, Mommy?" Hadley practically said--but I ignored her. And she recovered quickly and kicked her Halloween-sock-glad feet happily.

See? Happy babies:

The girls (and their parents) really liked the primate house.

Jill, Harper the Flower and a rhino.

We made it through about half of the zoo before the girls decided they had had enough. Hadley came home, ate and took a nice long nap. She got to stay up a little late to see some of the trick-or-treaters, though she wasn't as interested in them as she was in her favorite purple elephant toy (who we have named "Chuck" for no good reason).

So I'd say our first holiday was a success. I consider Halloween to be a pretty minor holiday, so I'm really looking forward to sharing Thanksgiving and Christmas with our little pumpkin. She has no idea about the good things that are in store...and we've learned that everything is more fun with a child around.