Sunday, July 17, 2011

Driving with a baby

Although Zoe and I tend to fly places, on the rare occasion, we drive. Last weekend her dad suggested that we go to Palm Springs for the weekend, staying until Monday evening. Our nanny was away that day so we had the choice of working for half a day each or simply take the Monday off and well... work harder the rest of the week. We got a sweet deal at the Colony Palms, a wonderful little gem of a hotel with a pool and a poolside restaurant and the most welcoming staff you can think of. Imagine walking over to the pool with a babbling baby who you know is going to scream as soon as she touches the water, while slim, tanned 20something mermaids and bodybuilders lie on the recliners with their daiquiris in hand, scrutinizing your every move. I was certain that not only would they huff and puff at me with a baby but also that the staff would ask us to leave after 20 seconds of Zoe tears. I was pleasantly surprised. Although the most tanned and daiquiried pool goers ignored us, several other people came up and showed Zoe some interest and compassion. "She will get used to it", one said and another reassured me that she would be happy in a different flotation device than the blue ring we had brought. In fact she did do better when I was just holding her and we quickly gave up any floating remedies. What finally made me relax though was the manager, who had greeted us briefly at check-in; he came over and said "We are so glad to have you here with us today", a sentence that out of context sounded very odd, but made perfect sense and helped me relax my still tensed shoulders. Babies are okay, even crying ones.

Zoe made the hotel room her new home and went straight for the minibar. She learned to open the fridge within minutes and I had to save several bottles of wine or sparkling water from her peeling off the label wondering if we would have to pay for unopened chocolates with teethmarks on the wrapping. Unfortunately we did not have a room with a balcony, something I had never realized the importance off before having a baby that goes to sleep a good 4 hours before we do. Well, it turns out that there is an app for that. Actually there are several but the one we ended up with was "mommy's voice", an iPhone app that detects sound (after a 60 second period of letting the parents leave), then plays a recording, in our case daddy's voice, and if the noise continues it calls another phone, in our case my phone. This worked brilliantly and after putting Zoe to sleep in the pack-and-play in our hotel room, making sure the windows were very tightly closed so we wouldn't end up in a Madeleine situation, we left and sat down 30 feet from our door in the rocking chairs on the reception's front porch with two glasses of wine. The next evening we were so confident in the app that we ventured all the way across the pool to the restaurant for dinner. I was partly overly happy to have a 'date' without a babysitter fee and partly panicking that Zoe was crying and the app had stopped working. I went back occasionally and found a comfortably sleeping baby and a working app.

The drive home was not as well-planned as the way out where we had driven most of the 3 hours during Zoe's morning nap. I wanted the last bit of pool time, Zoe fell asleep as a surprise to me (as a mom I should surely know when she sleeps, yet, out of ordinary week schedules, I forget) and I had to put her on one of the little cushioned couches in a cabana by the pool covered by a towel. We left as soon as she woke up but she was not prepared to be sitting in a car seat for very long. She started screaming and after only 15 minutes of driving we had to pull into a McDonalds somewhere outside Palm Springs. Buying a McDonalds bottle of milk for her (and a chocolate milkshake for myself) was probably one of the (many) lows of me a semi-veggie, sort-of-hippie mom. We were out of almond and rice milk and we needed to get home. I poured the milk into her bottle and gave it to her in the car seat, which bought us a full 45 minutes. I had to repeat twice times but after a short dinner stop, we got home in time for bed. So much for my pre-baby statements that "My baby will never drink or eat in her car seat".

What I learned from our little trip was that driving with a baby is not easier than flying because, 1. you cannot walk around in the aisle when the baby gets restless, 2. you cannot bother other people with your adorable baby's smile and get a little attention and acknowledgment and 3. you cannot breast feed a baby that is tied into a car seat. Yet, the trip was worth it and hopefully so does Zoe think.

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