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2002-09-05 - 4:36 p.m.

Labor Day weekend.

We went to Houston over Labor Day weekend to visit The Scientist's sister, her husband, and their four month old baby girl (our niece). Our flight left from the Milwaukee airport, so we had about an hour drive on Friday afternoon. At least that's what I kept thinking. In reality, it's an hour to Brookfield/Waukesha and more like an hour and a half to the airport. Plus Labor Day traffic. Our flight was at 5 and we left here at 2:30, putting us to the airport at 4pm assuming no bad traffic, easy parking, no shuttle bus, etc. All in all, not a comfortable margin, as I realized for the first time as I was driving to pick up The Scientist at 2:15 p.m. Doh!

I was already stressed out even before I realized that we were running short on time because I had to work in the morning (and actually had things to do), run errands (got to the library but never did get to the post office), and finish random things around the house (leave a note for the woman who was taking care of the cats, feed the cats, finish packing my carry-on bag, gather the stuff that The Scientist had forgotten) so when I got to The Scientist's building (having just realized we were really pushing our luck to get to the airport on time) I was freaked. And then as we were leaving town, we got stuck at an intersection waiting for a train to go by. Not exactly what one wants when one is driving madly to the airport.

I was completely on edge and once I could finally hit the road I drove well above the speed limit all the way to Milwaukee. We took the 894 bypass around the city and luckily traffic wasn't bad in our direction, so we made it to the airport right at 4:00 p.m. I immediately stopped worrying, but then we had to drive around for five minutes looking for a space in the parking garage and The Scientist took over the freaking-out responsibilities. All of a sudden he was worried about us making our flight--he booked through the airport dragging the suitcase with me trailing behind, occasionally having to break into a run to keep up (he's 6'1" in socks and I'm 5'5" if I stretch).

But all was well (after a brief delay at security for the confiscation of The Scientist's pocket knife keychain which he forgot to remove) and we had no problem making our flight. We flew directly from Milwaukee to Bush airport in Houston. I had never been to Houston before and didn't realize what a large and spread-out metropolitan area it is. From Bush airport we actually took a shuttle plane to Ellington Field (a teeny airport on the side of Houston we needed to go to). That's right, we took a plane across the city. For free! All we had to do was sign up in advance with the airlines (Continental) and we were booked on the free shuttle flight. Free plane!

It was a short hop (maybe 15 minutes) and when we got to Ellington field it was the smallest airport I've ever been in, even smaller than the airport in Cortez, Colorado or the one in Juneau, Alaska. Our luggage was handed through a gate in the fence to a little metal table. Passengers had to pass out the luggage in order to clear off the table. Not exactly the height of security. Brother-in-law M. picked us up and took us to Wendy's on the way home because we were starving (Bush airport sucks for food in the part we were in). When we arrived at their house sister-in-law C. and baby D. were waiting. D was still awake and in a good mood, so it was fun to meet her. We crashed shortly after arrival, worn out by all the stress and travel.


Saturday we lazed around in the morning and M. picked up beignets [I can't spell in French] and brought them home for us. Oh my god, they were so good. I was jonesing for a Krispy Kreme, but these were so much better. We got them freshly made (they were making the dough when M. got there) and they were hot and covered with powdered sugar and were just wonderful fatty sugary goodness that melted in my mouth. I ate three. After our lounging and gorging we went to the Houston art museum. It was very cool. It's spread across two different buildings connected by an underground tunnel that's an art installation in itself. There was a very diverse mix of art--from Impressionists to Italian religious icons to modern art to Bauhaus photography. It took a little work to convince C. that it would be ok to take D. out in public for an extended period of time. Evidently the only time C. breastfed in public was in the middle of a restaurant and it made M. really uncomfortable. We persevered, though (in our convincing), and they acquiesced and it went pretty well.

Unlike 99% of babies, D. does not like the car. Most babies I've known have fallen asleep almost as soon as the car starts moving. Not the case with D. She's ok if the car is at a steady (fast) pace, but as soon as it slows or stops, she starts to cry. She was ok for the first half of the drive to the museum, but cried for the entire second half (about 20 minutes). C. had to feed her a couple of times in the museum, but D. seemed to like her stroller and didn't mind the museum. The drive to lunch (at Chuy's, an awesome TexMex restaurant that I highly recommend) was non-stop screaming. However, she was quiet and slept through most of lunch (on M.'s lap) because she had tired herself out. The drive home was non-stop screaming (over 30 minutes) again, though. Yikes. The Scientist and I started to wonder what we were trying to get ourselves into with this whole parenthood thing.

For C. and M., it seemed to be a breakthrough day, though. They were really excited to have been able to take D. out for so long and kept exclaiming that this was not normal behavior for D. and that usually she was much fussier. Gah. It's a big goal for me and The Scientist to be able to take our baby out in public early on (earlier than four months). I think we'd both go stir-crazy if we couldn't. Part of it is parental will, I think. The will to accept that you will be inconvenienced, that you will breastfeed in public, change a dirty diaper in public, and risk having to go home if it doesn't work out. Part of it is obviously infant temperament as well, and there's not a lot you can control there, except to work with your baby and try to do as much as you can.

C. and M. avoid taking D. in the car when they can because it's not a fun experience with all the screaming. Maybe it will never get better, but I wonder if getting her used to her car seat at home (putting her in it when she's happy so she becomes accustomed to it) and taking her on short car trips (grocery store, library, around the block, etc.) wouldn't help when they are forced to take her on longer trips (to visit the grandparents) and don't have a choice about it. It's easy to give advice (not that I actually did, this is advice in my own head) when it's not your screaming kid. I really wanted to pass on Secrets of the Baby Whisperer to them (it sounds like D. may be a "touchy" baby) but it was pretty much impossible to do that without 1)risking offending them and 2)letting it out of the bag that we're trying to have a baby. So far the only people who know about the latter are me, The Scientist, my friend A.B., and, well, the entire internet (or whoever reads this page). We are decidedly not telling anyone in the family until the deed has been done (so to speak).

Saturday night we hung out and started watching the DVD we brought as a thanks-for-letting-us-sleep-on-your-sofabed gift but then got tired and went to bed.

On Sunday The Scientist and I got out of the house (D. had reverted to her usual behavior pattern and was crying a lot) and went to the Kemah Boardwalk. It was fun, but hot. I took some pictures of a boat and a flower and a couple of The Scientist (you don't get to see those).

a big ship named Christopher
flower on sidewalk to Kemah Boardwalk

We ate seafood and key lime pie for lunch. The seafood was yummy (especially the shrimp), but the key lime pie not so much. In fact, the combination of dodgy pie, incredible heat, stinky water (and stinky humanity), and too many people sent me into sensory overload. I got kind of nauseous and fed up, so The Scientist navigated us (very successfully with no wrong turns!) to a mall. Yes, a mall. We just needed some serious air conditioning. C. and M. have air conditioning but they keep their house around 79 and when you're nauseatingly overheated and overstimulated, that just isn't enough. We relaxed in the frigidity of the mall for a while (The Scientist bought some shoes) and, in the grand tradition of hair cuts only while on vacation, I made an appointment to get my hair cut the next day.

We went back to C. and M.'s just in time to get ready for the informal BBQ gathering with their friends T. and B. who have a two-year-old boy, D., and a 5-month-old boy, G. It's funny because G. is only a month older than our niece, but he weighs something like 24 pounds. He's a giant baby! He's wearing almost the same sized diapers as his 2-year-old brother. It's incredible. He's also a very good natured baby, providing a welcome contrast to our niece D.'s frequent screaming bouts. It gave me hope. Sunday night was more relaxing and attempting to watch the U.S. Open. Rain delays, rain delays, rain delays.

[Side note: I just ate my first Luna bar. It was the "Sweet Dreams" flavor and it rocked! Yummy, filling goodness and fairly healthy as well.]

Monday was our last day. I got my hair cut in the morning at a Toni & Guy salon in the mall by a guy named Angel. Even though he was just a "designer" (the cheapest hair-cutter level) he did a really good job. It feels so much healthier now (as well it should since I hadn't had it cut since my trip to Boston in May). I'm pretty sure we spent the rest of Monday lounging, reading, relaxing, and watching tennis. D. was fussy again. Par for the course.

We got to Ellington Field early and enjoyed some time reading in the air conditioning for a while before boarding our flight. We had to circle a bunch of times around Bush airport, so it took a lot longer than on the way there. Once in Bush airport we grabbed some salads and split a turkey sandwich at the airport Chili's, our only "real food" option. Our flight boarded on time (ish) but then spent a very long time sitting on the tarmac. I had to pee almost immediately after boarding the plane, but we got sent into a take-off queue and would taxi for a bit, then stop and wait, then taxi. It turned out we were number 9 for takeoff and by the time we finally got into the air (40 minutes or more after boarding) I thought my bladder would explode. I waited until the flight attendant left her seat and then I dashed back for the (one) bathroom, even though the fasten seatbelt sign was still on. The relief was literally painful. The rest of the flight was uneventful. We both just sat there and read our books.

We landed on time, got our bag fairly quickly, and hit the road home. The drive was longer in the dark without the threat of missing our flight spurring us on. We watched lightening move across the sky in front of us intermittently for half an hour when all of a sudden the skies opened up and it started to pour down rain. The rain mixed with hail and our wipers (on the fastest speed) couldn't keep up. We pulled over on the side of the road under a bridge for 10 minutes and waited 'til it let up a bit before continuing. We got home to find pristine floors! The last two times we've left town our cat R. has left us little presents (of poop) on the kitchen and bathroom floors as well as just outside the litter box. This time, nothing. The Scientist had taken the precaution of moving all our small throw rugs off the floor so we wouldn't have to wash them, but it was clean! At almost midnight, when we finally got home, that made my day.

The rest of this week has been a blur of trying to catch up on sleep, work, household stuff, etc.

[Another side note: The Scientist just AIM'd me to say he has a "play date" this weekend with K.'s husband T. to go see some college football. I had no idea he knew what a play date was, let alone that he would voluntarily use it in a sentence. Evidently West Virginia plays Wisconsin or some such. I don't care about football at all, so I'm glad he's found someone to go with. Evidently T. has already emailed him with disparaging remarks about WV players (T. is a Badger fan all the way). They should have fun. I'm playing in a tennis tournament this weekend, doubles this time.]


We went to Home Depot last night to buy the materials for making shelves for the wardrobe. We took out the clothes-hanging hardware because we don't need hanging space, we need shelf space, and are putting two shelves in the resulting space. While we were at Home Depot I decided that since we had to stain the shelves anyway (or leave them unfinished for a long time) that I would refinish the entire wardrobe now rather than after we move. Remember, here are the before pictures. I really hope the project goes well and doesn't turn into a total nightmare. I'm going to start the paint-stripping process tonight. Wish me luck. We also picked out some paint chips for another project I have in mind, painting our spare dresser. I bought it (unfinished pine) eight years ago and (badly) put polyurethane on it, but have never been happy with the results. I'm going to sand it, paint it in multiple colors and also paint The Scientist's spare small bookshelf as well. What ambition!

wardrobe - closedwardrobe - open

[Yet another side note: Every time I've stood up today, even for five seconds, R. has jumped up and sat on my chair. I almost sat on him several times. My chair, mine!]

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