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Trains, baby sleep, the zoo, and holiday planning

Several weeks back, Adam and I had a train day. We put on our matching train t-shirts and had a nice stroll around the local BART station. Up and down stairs, and lots of checking out the local buses. From there, we went home and unpacked our Union Pacific O-scale train set. We normally wouldn’t have done that in early November, but having a Hanukkah train is a tradition now, and Hanukkah starts at the end of November this year! That afternoon, the episode of Blue’s Clues we watched also coincidentally had a train theme, so that was fun.

One of the reasons it was just Adam and I at the train station was because Aaron has a new sleep/nap schedule. I’m told every kid has their “thing” (or more than one). For Adam, he’s a picky eater, for Aaron it seems to be that he’s not a great sleeper. So in August I found myself with an increasingly busy work schedule and a 9 month old who still wasn’t sleeping through the night. With work reaching peak busy in September, MJ ended up taking the entire overnight “shift” each night and we started looking into a sleep consultant. It took a few weeks to get an appointment, but in mid-October we were able to do an introductory call, and started taking detailed notes about his sleep. Her advice got us on the path to sleep. He now sleeps through the night, and we’re just fine-tuning some of the details of his new schedule. For one, he still wakes up earlier than I’d like. He’s also not taking long enough naps, so we’re continually tweaking things based on her advice.

As someone who is an avid reader and got 80% of my parenthood skills from reading books, hiring a consultant may have seemed like a strange move. The trouble we had was that there are always weird corner cases that not even the most comprehensive sleep system book could cover. Even if one did, I WAS SO TIRED. I’d rather just call someone and ask what we should do then spend an hour scouring a reference book – and then still not even knowing if what we’re doing is hurting or helping the process. A lot of poor sleep baby stuff is also counter-intuitive, so having someone to walk us through the most difficult parts has been really valuable to our success. We also wanted someone who would listen to us and help us be flexible in methods. In spite of advice from our pediatrician, we knew just letting him cry wasn’t for us, so we used a slightly different tactic that was more palatable to us. It was also nice to be reminded that even if he spends a little time crying as he learned how to self-sooth, ultimately the best thing for him and his developing brain was mastering sleep.

With the current schedule, on weekends Adam and I now get some alone time while Aaron naps in the morning. We’ll go to the outdoor farmer’s market, or over to the donut shop (the pandemic means we’re still not regularly bringing the kids inside stores, but we’ll go into the donut shop if it’s just us – and it often is!). On Sundays we usually go to the library too, which is closed on Sunday but has a nice little climbing playground, a bridge Adam likes running across, and a car-free parking lot that he likes to push the stroller around. He’s almost three years old, so his energy is on the high end, and it’s nice to give him the opportunity to burn some of it off. Plus, getting to walk outside is one of his favorite things.

Walking outside is so much one of his favorite things, that when we went to the San Francisco Zoo recently, he told us that his favorite part was getting to run around. I felt a little bad about this, because I worry we don’t give him enough time and space to do that, but the zoo really is a special place in this regard. It’s largely safe, and has large stretches where he can just let loose. We don’t live in the city anymore, but our area is still pretty densely populated, and busy streets are never very far, and our back yard isn’t very large. With all of this in mind, we’ve started exploring the local parks a bit more. There are a lot of them, and with the weather being pretty mild all year around here, we can go to them most weekends. It’s also been really nice for us adults to get out of the house and enjoy some nature too, and getting some activity is definitely helpful to my health!

We did do other fun things at the zoo though, including the zoo train! It’s a historic miniature steam train that just does a quick loop, but I love it and having kids gives me that many more opportunities to ride it. Adam loved it, and Aaron seemed to not have a bad time. We also brought along my zoo key that worked various information boxes throughout the zoo, and the process of turning the key to make something happen was a lot of fun for Adam. It was a bit of a long trip for two little ones, and Aaron didn’t get his afternoon nap so we’ve learned a little for our next adventure out to the zoo, but it was also nice to stop for lunch (and for me to grab a zoo brew!).

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. On Monday Hanukkah begins. On Thursday Aaron turns one year old. A week after that, my father-in-law and his wife are coming into town for a visit. Now, this isn’t quite as chaotic as actually giving birth at this time last year, but with work and family keeping me so busy, all of this came quickly and I wasn’t prepared for how exhausting it all is. I’ve been staying up late to wrap Hanukkah presents and make holiday and birthday plans.

We’re not cooking for Thanksgiving, but we did need to sit down and get our catering order from a local restaurant sorted. Same for our Hanukkah dinner. For birthdays, we’re celebrating Aaron’s first birthday on his actual birthday, and then a week and a half later we’re doing a big joint birthday party at a park for MJ, Adam, and Aaron while my father-in-law is in town. For that we had to visit the park and decide what space we wanted, and then reserve the space. Even with an outdoor event, our guest list is modest (pandemic!) but we still need to sort out catering for the party, probably a tray of sandwiches that will be easy to grab without spreading germs. I’m excited about all of these things, but I finally understand why parents are so exhausted around the holidays, and grateful for a quiet January.

Hanukkah presents we have so far wrapped? Done!

I’m going for my COVID-19 booster next week too. Here in the bay area getting an appointment took some planning since I was looking at 2+ weeks out for all the local pharmacies. It’s not like this in all of the US, but the demand is high here and distribution hasn’t been as good as I’d like to see. It’s still nice that the boosters came out in time for the most vulnerable in our population to get them before the holidays. I’ve really enjoyed seeing families get reunited, and seeing people start to get back to their normal lives. As I’ve mentioned before, it won’t happen for us until the kids are vaccinated, and they’re not eligible yet, but it does give us hope. Our goal is to get back to see family in Philadelphia as soon as the kids are fully vaccinated, and to spend Thanksgiving next year there.

Finally, I discovered that I had some vacation time to use. I’ve taken a couple Fridays off, and today (yay! I can write in my blog!), and am taking a week off in mid-December. During the week of I hope to get a little rest, get some things done around the house, and hopefully eke out a little time for some personal projects. It’s not quite the fancy vacation in an exotic location that I’d love to have, but it’s probably the vacation I need, and I’m looking forward to it.