Gloria Highlights, Week 80

Tuesday was Gloria’s first day of school. Kenny handled the drop off, which went unbelievably well – Gloria was clingy in the gym, but when Kenny walked her down to her classroom, she played with a toy or two, and then sat down to have a snack with a new classmate. The teacher asked if she wanted Cheerios, she shook her head, then she showed her a Crusher and G signed “please.” After that, she waved bye in response to Kenny’s goodbye (with one hand, while holding her Crusher in the other). She seemed like she had a really good time, and was in great spirits when Kenny picked her up. She got a 90-minute nap on her first day, which was not as good as with the nanny, but well above expectations for Day 1.

On that first day, she also ate all of the food we sent but barely touched her milk (fairly normal behavior since she bottle-weaned). She was ravenous when Kenny picked her up (eating a cheese stick, half a Crusher and a bagel piece), then had another substantial snack at 4:30. She made up for lack of milk with lots of evening dairy (cheese stick, a few handfuls of cream cheese, cauliflower gratin).

Gloria’s second and third days at SHA were also excellent – she was clearly adapting well, and one of the teachers even told me at pickup time that it seemed like Gloria had been there for months. By day three her nap had increased to two hours.

On Friday, we woke Gloria early to catch a flight to JFK so that she could meet her new cousin Tristan. We were fortunate enough to get a seat for G on the flight even though we hadn’t purchased one, and miraculously she managed an hour-and-a-half nap in my arms (I can’t even remember the last time she fell asleep in my arms). She was generally happy on the flight and enjoyed settling into our AirBnB apartment once we arrived in Long Island City.

Overall, we had a fun weekend in New York, but traveling really did a number on poor Gloria’s schedule (and she was coming down with a cold, which obviously didn’t help the situation). Our original plan of keeping Gloria on Pacific Time almost worked – she seemed to settle on a schedule between Mountain and Central Time (not bad). As we remember well from our last trip to visit Grandpa Moose, Gloria does not like falling asleep in strange places, and we had to do a lot of soothing at bedtime and naptime to convince Gloria to sleep in the borrowed pack ‘n play. Eating was also erratic over the weekend – we were able to scrounge together some decent meals in our little rented apartment with a few groceries we picked up on our first day, but meal timings were thrown off by Gloria’s shifted sleep schedule and we didn’t always have an emergency snack on hand like we do at home.

Gloria enjoyed playing with cousin Tristan’s toys and in his new crib, and she especially loved playing with his kitty, Sweet Dee (since we got home, her word for kitty has been “Dee”). One thing that was exceedingly difficult was finding enough space for Gloria to run around and get some exercise. The 18 degree weather was too cold for us to spend much time outdoors – we had one failed attempt to visit a playground near our apartment which turned out to be mostly roped off and completely covered with snow. One morning when we set out to visit Ilene and Erik, Gloria felt the cold air blow into our apartment building through the front door and adamantly said, “bye-bye.” It took some convincing (and an extra layer provided by daddy’s scarf) to get her out the door so we could walk the four blocks. So outdoor play was clearly out of the question, but indoor exercise was also difficult to come by given the size of New York City apartments. We ended up running around the hallways in Ilene and Erik’s building, playing in the elevators, and jumping on the couches in the downstairs common room whenever G started to get stir crazy.

It was wonderful getting some quality time with Gloria’s paternal grandparents, all of whom were able to spare some time from baby Tristan to play with G and practice her favorite songs – “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Open Shut Them.” Grandma Lynn chased Gloria around the apartment building and up and down elevators with me to help keep her entertained. Gloria met even more relatives on Monday morning at the bris, but by then it was clear that four days away from home and taken their toll and she was just worn out (as were we).

Unfortunately Friday’s happy flight experience was not repeated for the trip home on Monday. The flight home was hell – probably due to a combination of Gloria’s compounded sleep debt over the course of the weekend and a few unfortunate logistical circumstances. We boarded on time, but sat for 1.5 hours on the tarmac. Gloria treated us and our neighbors to lots screaming and squirming after takeoff. Congestion probably made the pressure change more uncomfortable than normal. She couldn’t be consoled for a while, and really worked herself up. She finally passed out in Kenny’s arms for a 45-minute snooze, but was still unhappy when she woke up. The poor munchkin was overtired and hungry and congested and pissed off. We had some fun times walking up and down the aisle, playing with other passengers, and playing toddler games on the tablet, but overall it was a very rough flight.

We landed in Seattle 1.5 hours late at 5:45pm and picked up our gate-checked bags, only to find that one of the wheels on our new umbrella stroller was cracked in half. We had neither the time nor energy to follow-up at baggage claim so trudged forward with a three-wheeled stroller. As it was, by the time we picked up our car and got G home it was almost her bedtime. We gave her a small meal, settled down for bedtime routine, and she passed out at 7:15pm. It was amazing to see how much her attitude improved just by setting foot in her own house back in Seattle. We are actively looking into cancelling all of Gloria’s upcoming long flights, including exploring childcare options so that Gloria can avoid the trip to India – it just feels cruel to drag her halfway across the world at this age, when she’s clearly happier at home. Besides, we’re not sure we can handle another trip with her so soon either.

Ilene, Erik and Tristan
The proud new parents with baby Tristan

Tristan's crib
Checking out Tristan’s sweet crib

Lunch with Karen
Lunching in style with Karen

Gloria and Dee
Giving Dee a big kiss

Gloria Highlights, Week 58

Gloria spent some time brushing up her skillz this week. After a few intense practice sessions, she had an “a-ha” moment with her tiger stacking toy – this involved holding the rings in both hands, and sometimes holding the base steady with her legs. Now she’ll sit with it for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, deep in concentration as she practices stacking the rings one by one. It’s the only object that has ever held her fascination for so long – and hence it is a wonderful thing. She has also been making some progress with her shape sorter. She can get the shapes into the sorter, although chance still seems to play a large role in whether she matches the shape to its corresponding slot correctly or not. Often she’ll drop one shape into the sorter successfully and then attempt to drop all subsequent shapes into the same slot. On the gross motor skills front, Gloria has also been pulling herself up to standing quite a bit more (although she’s not actually cruising furniture yet).

It’s been about a week and a half since Gloria’s first dentist appointment, during which we received some instruction (and a teeny bit of a guilt trip) about getting more regular with tooth brushing. Since then, we’ve been trying more consistently, but it hasn’t gotten any easier – Miss G clenches her mouth shut tightly and refuses to let the brush in. We’d welcome any advice from experienced parents on this one!

We took Gloria to Southern California to visit her grandparents for the weekend – it was our second visit this summer (although the first was unfortunately for my grandfather’s funeral). The flight to Long Beach went surprisingly well, and Gloria even got a bit of a morning nap in the Gemini carrier. After we arrived, we met my dad for a fancy 5-course lunch at his friend’s restaurant – G enjoyed house-smoked salmon, mushroom soup, veggies, and other goodies. She seemed to have some kind of allergic reaction after the meal though – her lips broke out in spots that remained for a few hours. We suspect a shellfish allergy, as the reaction was familiar to Kenny via his sister’s childhood allergy, and Gloria did try some of the vegetables from our mussels ceviche. The meal bumped up against Gloria’s regular afternoon naptime, and our sleepy munchkin fell asleep in the car during the trip home.

The next day we took Gloria to the beach. It was her first time setting foot on the sand since Thailand so many months ago, and she seemed fascinated by her surroundings. Gloria enjoyed a nice picnic, dipped her feet in the cold Pacific Ocean, and played with little sand crabs burrowing their way into the sand (I was relieved that although she picked them up, she refrained from trying to eat them).

Sleep did not go particularly well in Huntington Beach. Gloria flat-out refused to sleep in her trusty Peapod tent that served her so well in Thailand. The first night, when we failed after many attempts to get her to sleep in the tent, she ended up passing out in a heap on the floor of Grandma Sandra’s office. The next morning, we went out and bought her a pack and play, and tried putting her in it for her morning nap. She still freaked out when we tried to leave the room, however, so Kenny stayed in the room with her until she fell asleep. This only took 15 minutes, so we decided it was a small price to pay for getting Gloria to sleep away from home. However, the next nap took 30 minutes for her to fall asleep, during which Kenny pretended to sleep on the floor next to the pack and play and observed G doing all kinds of acrobatics – pulling herself up to standing and then thumping down onto the mattress over and over. She also did some downward dogs, looked over the side of the crib to observe her motionless father, and pitched her stuffed animals out onto floor. I took a turn for bedtime, and the process took 45 minutes, as she did more acrobatics in the crib and tried to get my attention. It was an ordeal, but better than listening to her scream herself to sleep (I think).

Gloria enjoyed the trip home, although she failed to get a nap during the flight. She especially loved opening and closing the airplane window and flirting with our neighbor in the aisle seat.

Eating – and trying new foods – was a pervasive theme this week, although Gloria’s appetite was somewhat erratic (some nights it seemed like she ate air for dinner). In Huntington Beach, Gloria loved Grandma Sandra’s chicken soup (the mushy carrots, chicken, and broth), kugel, guacamole, cupcakes, barbecue chicken, watermelon, mango, blueberries, pineapple, corn (on the cob!), a whole wheat bagel, and cream cheese. She’s also been practicing with the spoon, and managed to feed herself a few bites of polenta at home earlier this week. To ease her teething pain, Gloria has been chomping on baby carrots and eating frozen peas and carrots (still frozen!) To cap off her culinary experiences for the week, Gloria joined us for our anniversary dinner at Poppy. As we often do, we brought some of “her” food along with us in case the restaurant fare arrived too late or wasn’t baby-friendly enough. It turns out, G wanted nothing to do with the food we brought, but she loved the stuffed squash blossoms, fennel soup, cauliflower gratin, and assorted other small dishes from our thali.

Dinner in the bathtub
Having dinner in the bathtub makes clean-up a snap!

Ready to board
Ready to board for Long Beach

BAD WOLF
A Cali welcome note for Gloria? Oddly, someone had chalked this message on the wall adjacent to my dad’s house.

Dining
Who needs a highchair? The floor will do just fine, thanks.

Beach family Yellow bikini
Bathing beauty at Huntington Beach

With Grandpa Moose
Ready to go boogie boarding with Grandpa Moose

Sand
Learning about sand

Dancing with daddy
Dancing with daddy in front of an impressive sand castle

Gloria Highlights, Week 32

At the end of week 31, we took Gloria south of the border to get her second passport stamp. Kenny’s Aunt Barbara and Uncle Barry had generously offered to share their timeshare in Puerto Vallarta and they were dying to meet their grand niece. Eager for some sunshine and relaxation, we took them up on their offer. Our experience on the flight to PV was a stark reminder of how much Gloria has changed since our Thailand trip, as Kenny outlined in last week’s highlights post.

Gloria was great in PV, however. We decided to keep her on PST rather than adjusting her by two hours, and that was a great decision – it meant she slept in every morning and was able to stay up until 9 PM each night – perfect for a lazy vacation. However, we quickly learned that Gloria can no longer nap just anywhere, like she could during her newborn days, and our fantasy of poolside naps was quickly dashed. We ended up spending quite a bit of time in the hotel room each day while the munchkin got her beauty rest, but we were able to get her out and about between naps and in the late afternoon and early evening. Her later schedule also meant that we got to take her out for dinner almost every night. She also seems to be transitioning from three down to two naps, which made her nap schedule fairly unpredictable some days, as we were never certain whether to plan around a third nap or not.

By day two or so of our PV stay, we noticed that something seemed a bit off with Gloria. For one thing, our enthusiastic eater abruptly lost interest in solid foods. We initially suspected teething, but by Wednesday the verdict was clear: she had caught my cold. The poor kiddo had a few very rough nights, waking several times with a very stuffed up nose that clearly made her extremely uncomfortable. Fortunately we had remembered to travel with a bulb syringe this time around, and Gloria was very agreeable about letting us use it – I think she was pretty quick to catch onto the idea that it would provide some relief (note to self: bring the NoseFrida next time).

In spite of her cold, Gloria was an agreeable munchkin for most of the trip, and she really enjoyed the company of her great aunt and uncle. In particular, she would light up whenever Barbara walked into the room, and always had huge smiles for her. The fact that Barbara has a high-pitched voice and loves to sing may have had something to do with it. Barbara also discovered a few of Gloria’s ticklish spots, and Gloria rewarded her with uncontrollable giggling. Gloria took her first couple of dips in a swimming pool, an experience she was skeptical about at first, but she warmed up to it quickly (I took note of this and signed her up for swim lessons in Seattle). I even took her on a few waterslides, the latter of which seemed to be a rather harrowing experience for her and probably one I will not live down for some time.

The flight home on Friday was an unhappy experience for everyone. The flight timing worked out such that Gloria’s afternoon nap didn’t happen, and she was unable to get any real rest on the plane. This resulted in one unhappy baby, and we found ourselves resorting to all kinds of techniques to distract her from her fatigue, like singing, bouncing, nursing, singing again, walking the aisle, more nursing, and bouncing her until we felt like our arms would fall off. Eventually, she was so overtired and unhappy that we took to pacing the aisle for the final hour of the flight, taking shifts as our strength gave out (she has gotten very, very heavy). Other passengers on the flight gave us sympathetic looks, and a few made comments like, “hang in there, we’ve all been there before.” One positive thing I can say about the ordeal is that it’s finally over.

We were so harried and out of sorts by the time we got to SeaTac and picked up our bags, that we were on the road home before we realized that we had forgotten Gloria’s car seat (an extra one, not the one she was strapped into!) back at customs. So we had to turn around and head back to the airport. It was an unfortunate end to an already demoralizing day, and poor Kenny was stuck in the car trying to comfort a crying baby while I waited impatiently in a long line of passengers with various travel issues to get an Alaska Airlines supervisor to help me track down the missing car seat. Fortunately the detour only cost us about 30 minutes, but it was already past poor Gloria’s bedtime. She passed out immediately when we arrived at home.

The Mexico trip was a blast, but it’s also quite nice to be settling back in at home. We had a quiet weekend, and Gloria snapped back onto her normal schedule pretty easily. This morning, while Gloria and I were playing in her nursery, Gloria demonstrated a new skill for the first time: sitting unassisted! She’s a bit wobbly and can’t sit for long periods yet, but she can definitely hold herself up for short stints. I even caught a short video.

With Great-Aunt Barbara
Enjoying dinner with her Great-Aunt Barbara

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Tummy time
Playing on her tummy in a pretty dress from Grandma Lynn

Gloria's ear

In her two-pieceLounging by the pool
Lounging by the pool

Taking a dip
Taking a dip

Family portrait
Family portrait

Buckled up
Settling in for the flight home


Back in Seattle, showing off her new skill: sitting!

Glow Worms on a Plane

After Gloria’s successful test flight to SFO, we figured she must be ready to cross the Pacific (yes, we are crazy). Today’s destination: Chiang Mai, Thailand, with a very short layover in Seoul, Korea. We were a little nervous about the flights, but after they were over we couldn’t believe our good fortune. Baby G was fascinated by the airports, and she slept for a good portion of the longhaul flight to Seoul. When she was awake, she was happy and smiley. As with the SFO flight, she was unfazed by takeoffs/landings, even if she wasn’t nursing. When the other babies around her were crying, she showed them how to be a good traveler by remaining calm and happy (or asleep). The only thing we found a bit tricky was managing diaper changes with a squirmy baby in the tiny airplane lavatories, but we were thankful that they were equipped with changing tables.

Korean Air turned out to be an excellent choice for traveling with a baby. Per airline policy, seat assignments are not made until 30 days before the flight, in order to prevent passengers with mileage plan status from gobbling up the bulkhead seats before families with babies can get a crack at them (only the bulkheads support the bassinet attachment). The flight attendants set up our bassinet immediately after the ascent, they were excited to play with the baby, and they checked in with us frequently to see whether we needed anything. There were a couple of odd things as well: for some reason, our reservation reflected that we had ordered an “infant meal” (i.e. a bottle of formula), and at each meal time we had to remind the flight staff that our baby only consumed breast milk; when we boarded, our flight attendant gave us a huge duty free shopping bag, empty except for a box of tissues, and told us that it was for the baby.

After a long travel day, we arrived at our favorite Chiang Mai guest house, settled in, and got to sleep around 1am. All things considered, Gloria slept reasonably well in her new Peapod, although I did need to soothe her back to sleep a few times and remind her that it was nighttime. We’ll see how the adjustment goes over the coming days – I’ll write up my thoughts about baby jet lag once I get some insight into it.

In the terminal
In the terminal, ready to board

Takeoff
On mommy’s lap for takeoff

Trying out the bassinet
Checking out her sleeping quarters

Sleeping
I was jealous that there was no bassinet in my size

In Chiang Mai
Quiet playtime in Chiang Mai before heading to bed

Test Flight

This weekend we took Gloria on her first plane ride, to visit family in San Francisco. We prayed that the 1.5 hour journey would go smoothly, since it was also acting as a test run for a longer flight in November (yes, we are crazy and have already booked tickets to Thailand so that Gloria can meet her Burmese cousins).

While her parents still have some things to learn about travelling with an infant (in particular around flight timings), fortunately for us the Glo-bug is a born jet-setter. In order to catch our 7:30AM flight we got Gloria out of bed a few hours early, but she stayed comatose through an outfit change, transfer to her car seat, drive to the airport, and shuttle ride to the terminal. As advised by our friends, Lauren was all prepared to nurse Gloria during takeoff. However, the Glo-bug inherited her Grandpa Moose’s “pass out on planes” gene and did not require any assistance for the pressure changes.

On our return flight we realized how much Gloria loves airports. She had been a little fussy this afternoon, but the minute we stepped foot in SFO she was happy as a clam. She loved all of the lights and movement, and couldn’t get enough of the airplane views from our gate. Even though our departure was at 8:30PM, about 1.5 hours after Gloria’s witching hour, she was happy until we boarded the plane, at which point she promptly passed out (heredity kicking in again).

On the airport shuttle SEA to SFO with Daddy
Sound asleep for most of the journey, Gloria perked up at cruising altitude

Gateside pickup at SFO
Waiting for our gate-checked luggage; the captain had to stir things up for the car seats to arrive

Waiting for our flight home
Daddy, you’re embarrassing me in front of my new SFO friends

Snake on a Plane

I just saw the family off at the airport for their 2PM flight. Since they had a huge breakfast of Thai favorites at 8AM, and some bonus dishes at Lauren’s NGO around 10:30, we skipped out on lunch. But just in case they got hungry on their way to Chiang Mai, I sent them off with a parcel of snake in banana leaves, complete with all of the garlic/chili/cilantro trimmings.

It was a great having Shawn, Jessica, and Moose here for the past five days, and I am sad that they’re gone. Fortunately we’re going to meet up with them in Chiang Mai on Friday afternoon for a few more days of Thailand fun!

Snake
Snake at Lauren’s office, not on a plane

Just Flew in from Chiang Mai

And boy are our arms tired! We have arrived in our NGO assignment city, near the Burmese border. We need to check out the town and find ourselves a place to live for the next 3 months.

Criteria: Western toilet, hot water, comfortable bed, refrigerator.

Desirable bonus features: air-con for the “hot season” (it’s only 32°C now), good natural light, kitchen facilities (yeah, right!)

Mangosteen

Kenny and I first tried a mangosteen on our last trip to Thailand, on Ko Phi Phi in December 2008. We had heard that the mangosteen was a serious contender for the title of Best Tropical Fruit Ever, and we were eager to understand the hype. Alas, the mangosteen that we tried was a bad sample. It was dried up on the inside and kind of chalky; we knew something was amiss.

We finally got another opportunity to try a mangosteen last week in Laos. Our Luang Prabang guesthouse was just around the corner from a sizable produce market, and one of the sellers had particularly delectable looking fruits. We picked up a bunch of tiny bananas, a mango, some rambutans, and one mangosteen to try. This first one was so good that we went back to the produce market for several more over the following days.

Mangosteens have a thick, coarse, purple-brown skin and are almost perfectly round. The fleshy fruit inside comes in sections and has a soft, almost marshmallow-y texture, like a very ripe mango. The taste is sweet with a touch of tart, and a little creamy, with a fuller flavor than the sugar apple.

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How much is that mangosteen in the bucket?

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My name is Mangosteen. Bruce Mangosteen.

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Bruce Mangosteen with his two brothers, Bill and Xavier

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Delicious mangosteen flesh

On our Vietnam Airlines flight from Hanoi to Nha Trang, we found an article in the in-flight magazine about traditional fruits used for offerings during Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. One of these is the mangosteen, which is popular in the south. According to the article:

These fruits are essential for offering plates. Choosing good mangosteens is not easy, so families feel proud to offer perfect mangosteens to their guests.

Hopefully we’ll find more delicious mangosteens available here in South Vietnam, given their apparent significance.

How Not to Open a Pomelo

In preparation for our travels from Lanta to Krabi (minibus) to Bangkok (flight #1) to Vientiane (flight #2), we stocked up on fruit from the local market. We purchased some bananas, oranges, a pomelo, and a chili/sugar packet. This was the first time we’ve bought a whole pomelo rather than a shrink-wrapped set of pre-peeled slices. Little did we realize that they would be as challenging to open as a coconut. The process managed to consume our entire (1 hour) flight from Bangkok to Vientiane.

First, you need to make your way through the 1/2 inch thick green skin. Fingernails are insufficient for this task. Our trusty spork had difficulties as well. As Lauren was hacking on the pomelo with our plastic serrated knife, a flight attendant came by to assist. She scored strategic locations with her own plastic serrated knife to make the skin (a little) easier to peel.

Lauren peeling the rind
Partway through removing the rind from the pomelo

Peeled pomelo
Part 1 complete!

Next step, getting the juicy pomelo insides out of the bitter white membrane. This was a mighty struggle, with more advice pouring in from passengers across the aisle and our flight attendant. We finally got the hang of it – look for an opening on the top seam of a piece, get your fingernails underneath, and use a de-shelling motion. 

Pomelo, deconstructed
We never realized how much overhead is involved with each slice of pomelo

Now we were ready to enjoy the fruits of our labors with chili/sugar dipping (which was much easier to open). As we were eating the pomelo, our friendly attendant asked “do you like it?” We nodded enthusiastically, and she came back a minute later with a pre-peeled shrink-wrapped pomelo from the market. “Take this, it’s mine and I want you to have it. Have a safe trip to Vientiane.” Sometimes it really does take a village…

Open pomelo celebration
Success! Our pomelo in front, chili-sugar in hand, attendant’s gift in back