Monday, May 9, 2011

“This is where your mom and dad had their first relationship talk, Gabe.”

 We used to be spontaneous trip-taking people.

Pre-parenthood, I mean.

We'd wake up one Saturday morning and decide to drive three hours to the nearest Ikea. Or decide to road trip to LA just two weeks before doing it, making plans as we went. We love to go places. We love to see things. We love to do it all together. We may not have much extra money, but we prefer to spend what extra we do have on travels. (Since we *don't* have much extra, our trips tend to be domestic and drivable. My biggest dream? Someday, we'll see southeast Asia, and where I grew up for half a decade, together.)

Impending parenthood last summer meant we were hesitant to travel much, and I wondered how much our little trips here and there would change come baby.

I still wonder, to be honest. Most of me is all: “This baby is going to grow up to be adventurous! Adaptable! Resilient! He will eat what we eat! Stay where we stay! Adapt to our life! We won't over-think things or over-prepare or be stupidly anxious about traveling with him! IT WILL BE GREAT! (But also hard, sometimes.)” A tiny part of me doubts this: “He needs routine. He'll probably be lost and confused going to bed early at home, then late when traveling. EVERYTHING WILL GET SCREWED UP. Also, diapers. And nursing. And naps. Where will he take The Naps, hmmmmm?”

Saturday afternoon, Mike casually mentioned going to Dayton, the city where I went to college, where he went to grad school, where we met, where we lived our first married year, and where I spent the most consecutive years in one city in my entire life (five years, to be exact). We hadn't been down together in two-and-a-half years, and always joked that we were going to take Gabe someday to show him how he came to be.

After snagging a deal on a hotel room online, I figured it was meant to be. We packed the car within an hour of Mike mentioning the trip and we were on our way.

Yessss, see we are still able to take spontaneous trips! Do fun things on a whim! This. Will. Be. AWESOME!

Then it started raining. And Gabe got loud and fussy. And I thought I might fall asleep behind the wheel thanks to a late night and a baby that consistently wakes up before 7 am.

About an hour into the four-hour trip, my adventurous spirit was squelched, and doubt started to creep in: You have a babeee now. You can't just drag him around where ever you feel like on a whim. This trip isn't going to be worth it. You'll be tired. You won't have fun with a baby that doesn't take naps away from home well.

And, you guys?

Our little trip was awesome. AWESOME.

I fancy ourselves laid-back, easy going-type parents, so we embraced that side. Instead of enforcing his usual 7 pm bedtime, we let Gabe stay up until 10 pm and all crashed together. Instead of wrestling with a pack n play or getting a crib from the hotel, we got a room with two full beds – Gabe and I in one, Mike in the other. (Happily, or sadly?, we all slept ridiculously well. I so don't want to be a couple that sleeps separately for the baby, but perhaps for vacations?). Though, I was too uptight to let Gabe play on the floor (I am terrified of hotel room floors. Irrational fear. The germs! And scabies! And people pee on them! See? Irrational.). We changed his diaper on the front seat (what is with the lack of changing tables?), and even used cloth! I nursed him on campus in a quiet alcove and lots of times in the front seat of our parked car. We didn't bring any pureed baby food – he just ate little bits of our food. He napped in his stroller or in the car, but we weren't too particular about when he slept or didn't.

Of course, it wasn't all roses: he cried in the car inconsolably (torture), fussed and threw things off the table in a quiet restaurant, and fell asleep right before we put him in the car (inevitable wake-up. Is there anything worse?). During these times, we were all, “Never. Never leaving the house again. What were we thinking?”

But, fingers crossed, I think he'll recover from his break in routine just fine. (And good thing, since we already booked several other little trips this summer: nine days in a cabin in western Massachusetts, three nights in Asheville, North Carolina, and a week at a beach house in South Carolina.)

The trip itself? Was just what I needed. A breath of fresh air. A hug. A happy dance.

We spent the whole day yesterday galavanting around town – getting an amazing breakfast (banana pecan pancakes for Mike and chai tea french toast for me) at a cute, new little cafe; stopping by our absolute favorite coffee shop ever (so many hours spent there our first year of marriage!) to get coffee; and taking the grand tour of the entire campus. Including the house I lived in for two years, the residence hall I lived in my freshman year and Mike lived in for two years, and the place Mike and I first met.

Our first apartment together was here.

Who would have guessed six-and-a-half years ago that I'd be married to the 'cute new campus minister who plays guitar' and changing our baby's diaper in exact spot we first met? So fun. And crazy. And awesome.

Keepin' it real.

September 11, 2004 - I walked down these steps and saw Mike. :)

We grabbed some more coffee, and went to our favorite local grocery store (we have a lot of favorite food places. We are food people.) and got the fixings for a picnic. We walked a mile to a park and enjoyed a sunny meal.


 We went back to campus and ran into old friends and new ones, and chatted for a long while.

We ended the day by going to Mass at the best church ever, ever. The priest was my freshman year religion professor, and is the most dynamic, warm, pastoral individual I have ever met. It's the church I feel most 'home' at, and I haven't found a place that fits me spiritually since.
When the priest saw us after Mass, we got the most enthusiastic, unbridled-joy greeting we've ever received. He grabbed us in a vigorous hug, kissed Gabe repeatedly (“You have a BABY!” he exclaimed excitedly), and proudly told another parishioner, “She was the best student in my Intro to Religion class!” (SEVEN years ago. Best memory ever, right?) Before we left to drive home, he grabbed me tight for another hug and ordered us to keep in touch.

I feel so at home there. I wish that everyone could experience that sort of feeling. I absolutely adored my college experience, and adored my school.

I imagine most people have a place they are ridiculously nostalgic for, and I am lucky enough I got to spend my first mother's day with Gabe at mine.

We might not get to be the same sort of spontaneous that we were pre-Gabe, but we can still be spontaneous. And coming home? It's funny how two days away seems like a week with a baby. I happily settled into our bedtime routine: rocking Gabe, while nursing him and listening to lullabies.

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