adventures from Venice to Pasadena

Yesterday, I had to go to the eye doctor for a checkup. A year ago, this just meant leaving work early. Now, it meant getting me AND Ben out the door, and finding someone to mind him while I was gone. Which is why I called my friend Zee, who absolutely adores Ben, works from home, and lives in Venice, just south of my eye doc in Santa Monica. Of course, I was running late, because it took HALF A FREAKING HOUR TO GET THE TWO MILES DOWN VERMONT TO THE FREEWAY, so I had enough time to shove Ben, in his car seat carrier, at Zee, hand her the diaper bag with his supplies, and get to the eye doc ten minutes late.

Ben’s usually great with people who aren’t me or Paul. On Day One he was being passed around by my friends who visited me in the hospital. He’s totally used to what I refer to as his “fan club”: all my female friends who just adore the little guy. And he’s a total ham as a result, smiling and chortling at whoever’s in sight. So I was confident he’d be fine with Zee. Until I got a phone call halfway through my exam, and couldn’t even hear Zee over the screaming of my son in the background. But we figured out it was gas, and I told her what to do (“sssshhhh” in his ear, loudly, so he relaxes enough to burp), and then I went back in to finish the exam. (The doctor’s office manager was not thrilled with me, between being late and the mid-appointment break. Oh well. Welcome to new parenthood!)

I texted Zee as I was leaving the doctor, to check in. She texted back that everything was fine. Then, as I was driving back over the Venice border, I called – and again, all I could hear was Ben’s unhappy screaming. (It wasn’t the hungry wail, or the gas squeal) I drove as safely and quickly as I could to find a parking spot, and hurried up to see how badly my son was tormenting poor Auntie Zee.

The problem now is that I react to Ben’s emotions. It’s like that episode of Futurama where Bender gets an emotion chip and is hooked up to Leela’s feelings. When Ben is in pain or upset, I get upset. When he whangs his head into something, or gets his shots, or just gets hurt by something, he lets out these short shrieks of pain as a result and I start crying. So when I heard him wailing in the background, I had to fight myself not to speed south to get him. Because I wasn’t sure how much he missed me, but I was pretty sure that by holding him, I would make him feel better.

But when I got there, he was fine. He’d just been really gassy, and Zee had walked him around until most of it came out. He was also overtired and WAY overstimulated by being someplace new. So I put him in his sling, covered him up so it was dark, and we started walking to dinner. I figured he’d go to sleep (which he did) and stay asleep in the sling in my lap while we ate. He’s done that before, and I’ve actually been able to go out to eat with friends as a result. But this was not a good day for baby Ben, because as soon as we sat down at the sushi place, and got our hot sake, he started squirming. Then whimpering. Then chuntering. THEN crying. And the whole time, he was trying to gum through my shirt to my boob. I spent the rest of the meal either cradling a sling-wrapped bundle and singing “Half a World Away” under my breath, into his ear, or actually breast feeding him in the restaurant, hidden behind the sling. Not a good evening out for Ben.

We walked back to my car (while Ben napped again in the sling), and then I suggested visiting my old apartment. My old roomate Andrew still lives there – or, as I refer to him to Ben, “Uncle Gorilla”. Andrew has a gorilla suit, which he put on for a short time at my wedding reception, which was hilarious. Now, he has a beard, which I keep insisting is his gorilla nature coming out. And he, in my old apartment, is less than two blocks now from Zee’s new place. So we stopped by and chatted for a few minutes, while Ben sat calmly on Zee’s lap and looked around. “Look baby,” I said, “this is where Mommy used to live before Daddy dragged her off the West Side and away from the beach and all her friends.” Sometimes, I miss living on the West Side, and visiting my old neighborhood last night, as well as my old friends, it was definitely one of those times.

Today, I took Ben to Gymboree in South Pasadena. The entire experience is written up in my Yelp review. It’s all about my concern with how antiseptic the place in, especially since the instructor today HAD A COLD and was still around very small babies. I’m so usually NOT concerned with germs that I forget to ask people to wash their hands before touching Ben, so for a place to make me actually worry about cleanliness is pretty bad.

Then we went to Whole Foods in Pasadena. But before we could go in, I had to handle Hungry, Cranky Baby. Most of the time, my baby is great. Except when he’s hungry. THEN we have problems. Ben wanted his lunch, and he wanted it NOW, which is why he yelled for the entire ten minute drive up from South Pasadena. I opened the back door of my microvan, sat down in the cargo area with him, and fed him both the bottles I’d brought with me: the milk I pumped before leaving, and then another couple ounces of formula. I have to supplement with formula these days because he eats SO FREAKING MUCH (just over five ounces in a feeding). Then I had Calm, Sleepy Baby instead, so I was able to shove him into his baby sling, and go about my shopping.

WF Pasadena, BTW, is OMG the BIGGEST WHOLE FOODS EVER. It has two stories. It has a taqueria and a fish market/restaurant and a custom juice bar and a huge section of vitamins and health/personal care products that includes organic clothing…and that’s just on the FIRST floor. Upstairs had the butcher section, including a smoked meat counter, the usual sandwich deli, a dessert bar, the sushi stand and salad bar, and a huge wine section. It was like a huge grocery store crossed with an upscale food court. It was RIDICULOUS. I only shop at Whole Foods for certain staples, including:

– bulk bin items, like lentils, chickpeas, black beans, blue corn meal, carob chips, etc
– organic baking ingredients like carob powder and buckwheat pancake mix
– vitamins that I can’t get elsewhere, like my Floradix iron supplements

And usually while I’m there, I’ll pick up a few non-staples
– my favorite Cascade Farms apple-pie flavored nonfat yogurt and favorite fruit juice sweetened carob-peppermint soy-based ice cream
– produce, meat or fish that is on freak sale, and therefore reasonable
– pre-made sushi, because it’s actually good there

I only set foot in a Whole Foods every few months. It’s too easy to spend way too much money there. Everything’s so prettily arranged, – but I can’t justify the expense. Better to wait until Sunday and hit the farmer’s market for produce, or send Paul to Trader Joe’s on his way home. WF is running a whole “we’re really affordable if you do it right!” campaign. My version of doing it right is to get the same items at Trader Joe’s for two-thirds the price (cage free eggs, hormone free milk, Ezekiel flourless sprouted grain bread, etc) and supplement THAT with the farmer’s markets and Whole Foods. I’m good at meal planning, cooking, grocery shopping, etc – it’s a shame I’m not a housewife, because I would have been awesome at it.

I’m going to go to sleep now. Ben should be asleep until 4am, at LEAST. I hope so. Last night, after all his adventures in Venice, he was only able to stay awake for twenty minutes of nursing before passing out. Usually, he nurses for half an hour, and then drains some formula on top of it to keep him full for the six hours he sleeps through. But last night, he was just WAY too tired, and I couldn’t wake him to finish his feeding. I expected him to wake up in a couple hours, starving. So when he kept sleeping, I couldn’t. Sleep, that is. I kept having to get up and check on him. For him to sleep so deeply than an empty tummy doesn’t wake him, it made me uneasy. But every time I went in, I heard his quiet, even, shallow breathing. And then, finally, at four AM, he woke up – and all I had to do was feed him for twenty minutes again before he went back to sleep. Amazing, because usually, Ben doesn’t want to go back to sleep in his crib once he wakes up. I guess we wore him right out. And I’m hoping all the adventures today did the same. Maybe if I just tire him out during the day, I can get him sleeping seven hours at a stretch before I go back to work in two weeks.

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