…well, Brighton, technically, but that makes for a much less identifiable blog title :).
On June 23, two days after my birthday, my friend Joe became a dad for the first time. He lives in the Boston area, and I live in the southern California area, so we’d talked about my maybe making it out there later this fall, but after the baby photos started pouring onto Facebook, I wanted to make it out there even sooner.
So, last Wednesday I flew out to Boston, to stay with Joe and his lovely wife Laura, and to meet their adorable little daughter, Natalie. I was there for a whole week, just getting back home last night, and this is how it went….
Warning: There be large amounts of adorable baby pictures below…
When booking my flight, I searched for two attributes: non-stop and cheap. I wanted to avoid going out of LAX, if I could, and the best deal I found was through JetBlue from Long Beach… on an overnight flight. The Long Beach airport is small and calm, so even though it’s not right next door, it’s always a nice place to start/end my trips. I’d never flown overnight before, and that was sure the adventure I expected it to be. I don’t think I slept at all on the plane, but I couldn’t really tell ya for certain. The guy two seats over from me was just passed out on his seat-tray, but as much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t doze off.
So, early Thursday morning I landed in Boston, completely wasted and pretty darn pooped – but I didn’t want to take a nap, if I could avoid it, because then my internal clock would be even screwier than just the simple 3-hour time difference. I was surprised to walk outside and find that it was actually cold. The temperature was low and the wind was very cool… enough for me to zip up my jacket and do the “I’m cold, but I have to wait here” jig. Joe picked me up and we stopped off at a local diner for breakfast. I was introduced to home fries, and ate the heck out of everything on my plate. My body had NO clue what was going on; it was 3:30am (6:30 ET), light outside, and I was eating breakfast. YOLO!
By the time we got back to Joe’s place, Laura was up, as was little Natalie. I tell ya, I smiled pretty big when I saw that little girl :). She had even more hair, her eyes were even bigger, and she was very much cuter than the pictures had shown.. and even though I was a groggy mess, I knew I was in for a good vacation.
That afternoon we went out for dinner, Joe and I did some erranding, and that night I hit the pillow HARD ;). Speaking of pillows, this trip was an interesting venture in another way – it was the first time I’ve slept in a bed in a very long time (look for a long-overdue post in the next few days about how I sleep). This first night I adapted a way to sleep as I normally do, but the rest of the nights I just used the bed since it was easier. It wasn’t bad at all, actually.. even though I had to kinda hop to get onto the tall bed.
This morning, Laura and Joe both had dentist appointments, and while Joe went to work first, Laura and I headed off with little Natalie in tow. I ended up watching the 7-week-old while her mom went in to see the doc, and we did fine… for a while. Eventually she started to cry (the baby, not Laura.. though she might’ve been crying, you know how mean those oral hygienists can be), so I tried walking her around a bit. That calmed her for a while, as all of the women in the office oogled over the little girl, but eventually it was time to try out one of the bottles Laura had left for me. Natalie is breast-fed, but I was told she takes to the bottle just as well, so I thought this would be an easy task. It’d been a very long time since I’d spent any serious amount of time with a baby, and probably never one this young, so I was definitely diving in head first :). I set the crying little bugger into her stroller as I dug out the bottle, and after examining it for a moment, I started to unscrew the bottle cover… while, in actuality, I was unscrewing the entire top and leaking milk all over my hands and pants. So, note to self: that wasn’t how you take the top off. The baby continued to yell at me for my incompetence (and I can’t blame her), and as a gal walking out smiled and made a sympathetic comment, I made a quick joke about not even being able to figure out how to open the bottle-top. She reached for it and popped it right off, and to that random Bostonian woman, I am forever grateful :). After all of that, Natalie wasn’t even hungry (I’d forgotten to do a diaper check, silly me), but Laura was actually lucky enough to have found the fastest dentist’s office in the world, and she came out pretty quickly to take us all home.
That afternoon, having already taken a self-guided, crash-course in bottle-opening, I got a refresher in diaper-changing, too – this time by peacefully observing a pro (Laura) do it. I had to be sure I was up on these things, not only because I was going to be staying there for a week, but because I was on babysitting duty that evening while Joe and Laura went to a wedding. It was the first time they’d left Natalie alone like that, and while I knew Joe would be fine, I’m glad to say that Laura seemed to do well with it, too :). No anxious-mother calls every 10 minutes, here, no sir. Natalie and I actually had a lovely evening together. Obviously, at this age she doesn’t really do anything but eat, poop, sleep, and make hilarious twitchy faces, but boy did we bond. Okay, I bonded.. she just layed there. She had some gas as Joe and Laura were leaving (if you’ve ever heard a little baby make big farts, and you find farts humanizingly funny, you know just how hilarious it can be), but eventually she dozed off. I turned on the TV and opened my netbook, but after a while she was up.. and hungry. Laura had left me 3 full bottles (plus the 80% full one from the dentists), and everyone was pretty assured that that’d be PLENTY for my night – but as Natalie kept on crying, and feeding her kept calming her down, I eventually ran out. So, the end of our night wasn’t quite as peaceful, as I tried to keep the poor little girl distracted until her folks came home, but the night was anything but disastrous. Really, I’d been happy to meet my old friend’s little girl, and she IS cute as a button, but that night I really did fall in love with the gal. I never got back to my netbook, because even though I spent a fair bit of time feeding/diapering/calming, she really captivated my attention the whole time :).
This was a pretty lazy day… just lounged around the house and relaxed. Ah, vacation :).
We’d planned on going to church, but that morning I woke up to a text from Joe saying that they decided to just stay in and rest. It worked out well, actually, because today was the day we stumbled upon the catchphrase of the week – “Poop EVERYwhere.” I won’t bother with the story, in case anyone finds it embarrassing.. but with a baby and diapers in the mix, I’ll just let you create your own tale – I’m sure it’ll be much worse than what actually happened. I wasn’t present for this, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t latch onto the saying, and it nearly immediately found its way into my lexicon :). The rest of the day (and the rest of my visit [and the rest of my life, perhaps]), we continually found reasons and new ways to bring this phrase out. Good times, indeed :).
The four of us ended up going to the Marshfield Fair, which worked out well since I missed out on going to the Orange County Fair this year. It was very much the same as the OC Fair (rides, games, fried-everything), but it was much more rural… and that made it all the more fun :). There were big lumberjacks doing a woodcarving/logrolling show, and the whole atmosphere was just a little more down-home than it is here in paved suburbia. The highlight, for me, was coming across a pair of kangaroos just lounging around. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a kangaroo in person.. and if I have, I was too young to remember. That night, we ended up having dinner with their friends, Derek and Shelby (and their little Maggie.. just 6 months older than Natalie), at a local Greek place, and even after food from the fair, that was a darn tasty meal.
The bedroom I’d been staying in had been adopted by Joe’s dog, Mayer, as her little hideaway in the house. Up until this point she hasn’t taken more than a couple of steps into Natalie’s nursery, and while Mayer’s definitely protective of the little darling, she’s used the guest room as her Fortress of Solitude at times. During my visit, she spent a lot of time with us in the living room, often on a chair with me, but Mayer was just as often found in the guest bedroom. This night she was up on the bed all evening, so when it came time for me to hit the sack, she just stayed in there with me. I tell ya… a loving dog and a baby all week? That’s a Mark-level vacation, and everything else was just more icing on top :).
Another lay-about day, pretty much. Joe has a job (Laura does too, she’s just still on maternity leave), so he was gone most of the day. Laura and I went out for a few errands with Natalie, but most of the day was just spent back at the house, where I lounged around playing with my phone and caught up a little on some Internet news (Minecraft coming to PS3! Woo!). As we went to sleep, Mayer was in with me again, but this time she was down on the floor in her bed. In the middle of the night, though, she came up and joined me on the bed.
Ah, my final day. Joe was able to come home a little early from work, to spend the last few hours with me before taking me to the airport. I gave Mayer a smoochie goodbye, helped load Natalie into the car for the last time, and we were off. As I had been the entire week, I just spent the ride watching little Natalie.. watching her sleep, watching her wake up, and laughing as her eyes grew wide and winced as we passed under numerous bridges. It was hugs all around, and I headed off for my flight back home. Unlike my overnight flight out there, this time I took full advantage of JetBlue’s TV offering… and I just so happened to land on 6 episodes of Castle in a row… 6 hour-long episodes that pretty much filled my 6.5 hour flight.
I met Joe in high school, and the amount of life we’ve gone through together is extensive, but this… this has really taken the cake. The last time I was out in Boston was 3 years ago, to see Joe and Laura get married, and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to make it out again to meet his daughter. As I wrote about before, this month is packed, but I was able to take a week and do absolutely nothing but spend time with this wonderful little family. I’ve seen a lot of Joe’s… business Joe, sad Joe, relationship Joe, etc., but papa Joe is easily my favorite, yet :). I’d only spent maybe 4 hours total with Laura before, but I really loved getting to know her for reals and being able to spend so much time with her this week. I knew she was a lovely gal when I met her before, but living with them and getting closer with her has only amplified that fact, and I really appreciate how much she welcomed me into her home and her life for a week. Mayer, of course, gets older every time I see her, which means she gets calmer every time I see her… and I’m definitely a fan of that :). Of course, the highlight (if I’m being honest), was getting to know little Natalie. So much of my week was spent just watching her or holding her… I just fell head-over-heels, and I was so darn sad to have to fly off and leave her behind.
I’ll leave ya with a link to a video Laura took of little Natalie, as I stood behind the camerawoman (probably) making googly faces:
Ya know… now that I think about it all, I just might have to make my visits at least a yearly event :).
P.S. – Today is actually Joe and Laura’s wedding anniversary, so cheers to you two! Thanks for having me, I love ya :).