We made our way to Los Angeles on Saturday. Tall Mountain had to be in the area for tonight’s screening of his newly released documentary film. We have also been wanting to see three families in the area for quite some time, so we tried to combine it into one family trip.
After flying to Geneva in July with Ayo, the L.A. flight was pretty straightforward. After flying just once, you know if air pressure is going to annoy your baby or if he’ll cry during take off. You know, when given the option, what is the best time to fly. I was more relaxed too, which I know makes a big difference. The main change this time, is that Ayo is of course older. So, I have three major additions to our 3.5 month packing list, which have all come in very handy here: a Tommee Tippee Roll N Go bib that you can roll up and wipe down instead of packing 20 cloth bibs, the Brica travel booster chair for easy mealtimes (photo bottom right) and practical little Munchkin food storage containers. For convenience sake, we also brought our Pack n’ Play travel crib as we had the luxury of car space on this trip. Bubs and I are sharing a carry on this time. Not many clothes needed: it’s California, baby!
Ayo is more active, but thankfully not crawling yet or wanting to pick up a piece of already chewed gum off the ground. He also eats solids now, which requires more thought and planning the night before the flight. All things considered, though, the flight was pretty uneventful. There were loads of kids on our flight (that’s what you get when you choose a family-friendly flight time) and Ayo’s cackles and squawks were drowned out by the hum of the aircraft and the commotion of the fellow munchkin passengers. I fed him and let him play on us and then on the Moby wrap on the plane floor. He got fussy around his usual nap time, so I wrapped him in a scarf to mimic his sleep sack and told him it was time to sleep. Around the moment when his eyes were rolling around in his head, the stewardess wanted a free giggle. Clearly, she didn’t see that we were intentionally turning away from Ayo so he could fall sleep. She giggled and cooed at him, which made him smile and crack up. Thankfully, when she left, his fingers returned to their sleep stations: one in the mouth, one on an ear. Within 5 minutes, he peacefully drifted off to la-la-land. This is the absolute miracle of sleep training. I’ll get to the disadvantages later.
Learning from our previous travels, we decided it was best given our new stage of life to rent a car. The queue at the cheapest rental place was longer than a seven year itch, so we of course reached Ayo’s next nap time. As if on cue, he drifted off to sleep in the stroller. I knew it wasn’t going to be the best of naps, but I was pretty thankful for any rest before seeing his auntie and uncle for the first time (left). We drove out to their place in Pasadena after stopping at the airport In-N-Out, a supposedly healthier West Coast burger joint (a bit overrated and definitely not healthy, but okay). Regardless, we had fun watching the 747 airplanes fly right over our heads from Singapore, Fiji and Italy while I fed Ayo some lunch: carrots & peas followed by sweet potatoes & broccoli. He thought he was having the burgers and fries, just like us.
We enjoyed our weekend with uncle J and auntie C. We lounged on the beach in Santa Monica, introduced Ayo to the Pacific Ocean (I posted a pic of what he thought of it, below) and we ate some fresh seafood. We went with them to their dancing and singing African-American church (so fun!) and had real coffee in Old Town Pasadena – a more posh area of Pasadena. We even got to see the tiny apartment I lived in for a couple of years as a kid on North Oakland Ave., while my father studied at Fuller. I have no idea how he studied with three small children running around in that 2 bedroom apartment. Anyway, it was extra special as the once rundown place had been gutted, expanded and then completely renovated and…the builders had left the doors open!! The apartment was being rented out for six times the price our family had paid 25 something years ago. The neighborhood looked so much cleaner. I always find it remarkable how city planners can transform the reputation of a neighborhood and make it more desirable (sort of like LoDo in Denver).
We moved from auntie and uncle’s apartment to a little Comfort Inn so that Tall Mountain could set up his office for a few days this week and so we could use the space as a base. From here, we tried to go out one night for dinner but by the time TM finished work and looked up a place to eat, we had hit Ayo’s breakdown time. It was pretty stressful. When we finally got there, we saw the restaurant we had chosen had white table cloths. That’s how we ended up opting for a mediocre pizza place instead. It was a relief that it was empty so we didn’t have to worry about scaring away guests. But it was not very good food and we just scarfed the greasy pizza down and raced “home” to put our kiddo to bed. That moment in our trip was a bit of a reality check. It’s as if at almost 7 months, we finally feel the loss of the many freedoms we had before Ayo was born. I think we’ve been grieving that more than ever on this trip. We of course don’t resent Ayo but we sure miss the way we used to travel: always filling our schedule, always traveling with a carry on, always seeing a ton of people, always timing things perfectly (really really tight). And now, we’re brought to a grinding halt, trying to fit in three naps each day. After reflecting a bit with TM, I think our frustrations have to do with our own expectations. Of course, if we expect to be able to do as much as we did pre-baby, we will most certainly be disappointed.
In a way, Ayo’s schedule has added a layer of difficulty to our expectations and our go-go-go travel style. For the most part, the schedule gives us beautiful predictability during the day and beautiful sleep during the night. On the road though, there are only so many activities you can plan in 2 hour segments (realistically 1h30 after feedings) before we need to find a restful place to nap. When traveling, the predictable part becomes that I know that he will fuss exactly when we go out at 1pm to lunch and he will melt down exactly when we meet up with our friends for dinner and tonight at the film screening, and that is pretty miserable. It’s simply not realistic to nap at the same time each day on a trip like this. With that said, scheduling does allow us to put him to bed in the hotel room and soak in the outdoor hot tub on our own (using our makeshift baby monitor: unlimited phone minutes and one mobile phone with us, the other in the hotel room) or take Ayo when he is at his best to the neighborhood World’s Gym. (Speaking of which…after running for 25 mins on the treadmill, some guy yelled at me: “Lady, what’s wrong with you bringing your baby into a gym! He’s in his carseat staring at you and breathing in disgusting recycled air from the vents! That’s child abuse!” Little does he know how loved that boy is. I smiled back: “I think he’s doing just fine but thanks for your advice” and was just so happy we were able to fit in some exercise given the limitations of baby’s schedule and being on the road.
We’re adamant not to stop life just because it’s harder with children. That’s why we are still traveling with bubs. We’re still trying to go out on the town, driving an hour to the beach and arriving exactly at naptime, still finding a fun Korean BBQ restaurant downtown LA and still hope he’ll nap in the car. Yet, slowly but surely, we’re also learning to lower our expectations, plan a little less in a day and also not plan to meet a couple for dinner at Ayo’s bedtime like last night (duh!).
Bringing baby along on our trips is a fantastic exercise in selflessness, especially for our personalities. Tall Mountain and I keep looking at each other on this trip and repeating: