Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Travel journal: San Francisco

A few weeks ago, Brian came home from work saying that he wanted to take a vacation. With a three-day weekend coming up, we decided that we should leave town for the weekend but not go too far--it would be the perfect chance to test out traveling with a toddler without spending a fortune on plane tickets and dealing with the hassles of flying with a toddler. We went back and forth, trying to decide between a city trip and a trip that would be more hiking, and finally decided on the city trip, because we've missed wandering around cities, we knew we needed to experiment with that kind of travel with Adriana, and we haven't spent any where near enough time in San Francisco since we moved back to California. Also, it's easier to find a last-minute affordable hotel in the city than up in Point Reyes.

On Saturday we ate an early lunch at home and then drove up to San Francisco. We parked at the de Young museum, and headed inside, only to realize that it was a beautiful day and we would rather spend it outside. We spent the afternoon wandering around Golden Gate Park, loosely following a couple of walks from our deck of City Walks cards: we circled Stow Lake and wandered onto Strawberry Hill, strolled through the botanical gardens, and then ventured into the Sunset district where we grabbed a couple of wraps and returned to the garden, so we could eat and Adriana could get out of her stroller and play on the lawn. I was worried because Adriana hadn't nursed since nine that morning, but she had been nibbling on Cheerios from her snack trap while we walked (we began calling her Gretel over the course of the weekend, because she was leaving a trail of the things all over the city) and was very interested in what I was eating, so I shared my falafel with her and realized that I should be happy that she can go longer between feedings from me.

Turtle in Stow Lake

Chinese Pavilion


Eventually we headed back to the car and went to our hotel (the Westin Market Street--I found a great deal through to check in. We let Adriana wreak havoc in the room for a bit, before I realized that being trapped in a hotel room with a baby who was getting into everything was certainly not my idea of a good time. Even if we weren't yet hungry, it was time to get OUT. We put the baby into the Beco and headed over toward Union Square. Adriana fell asleep on my back as we wandered around the square and surrounding streets. We finally decided to stop and get a bit of dinner, which was fine until I decided I needed to get the baby off of my back. I tried lowering her gently onto the bench of our booth, but she woke anyhow. And she wanted nothing to do with the high chair, so we took turns holding her and eating dinner. And in spite of the late nap, she still went to bed at a respectable hour that night.

We got a fairly early start on Sunday. I wanted to have a big yummy breakfast somewhere but hadn't planned on any place in particular, so we walked down to the Ferry Building, thinking that one of the restaurants there would serve the kind of Sunday brunch I was hoping for. Alas, all the restaurants were closed, so we got pastries at Peet's and let the baby run around outside, patting friendly dogs and chasing pigeons. I studied my walk cards, and we went from the Ferry Building to Chinatown. It wasn't yet ten o'clock, and the streets were fairly quiet when we got there. We peeked inside the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company, and the people there motioned us inside. I stood and watched for a while as the machines turned out perfect circles and people folded them into fortune cookie shapes. One man said something to me, and pointed to a basket of crisp circles that hadn't been folded into cookies yet. I didn't understand him, and he said something again. When I still didn't get it, he pointed to me, then the basket and said, "You. Take." So I did.

At St. Mary's Square, we released Adriana onto the playground. She spent a fair amount of time just playing with the gate, but eventually discovered the play structure--the one that wasn't in a sandbox, as she refuses to walk on or touch sand. She finally even asked to nurse, which surprised me, as I had been expecting a repeat of the previous day. We spent a little more time after our play break wandering Chinatown while Adriana napped in her stroller, and then we tried to get ourselves some lunch.

Lunch was a fiasco. We found the place where my friend Melanie and I ate last fall, which had been recommended by her copy of Lonely Planet. They didn't have high chairs, but back in September when Adriana and Eliza were eight and six months old, that wasn't too much of a problem. At first we weren't concerned, because Adriana was asleep in her stroller, and they let us squeeze the stroller in by our table. But then the baby woke up and wanted out, and the restaurant was getting more and more packed with other tourists, and we ate quickly and left. The food wasn't even that great.

We made another playground stop, but Adriana was obviously still tired and didn't want to play, so we decided to go back to the hotel to see if she would take another nap. She didn't sleep then, but she did nurse well, and we sorted through the deck of walks, and picked out a couple that would take us through the Mission. I had planned on doing the Cole Valley and Haight Street walks, but somehow these other ones sounded more interesting--plus we figured we would end up near some good Mexican food in time for an early dinner--so we hopped on BART up to 24th Street.

I'd never done much walking around the Mission, and it was interesting to take the time to see the neighborhood. It reminded me of DC's Columbia Heights or Logan Circle, with the transition to hipster gentrification in process, but with more murals and more signs in Spanish. There was a beautiful playground with murals and a mosaic dragon, but Adriana had conked out in the stroller again. Starting to get hungry, we headed toward Valencia--it was early, but we thought if we ate something light, we could have a second, later dinner. We just knew that we needed to get food before we got cranky--a valuable lesson we learned when we first traveled together back in 2001. We stumbled upon Dosa, and I immediately remembered that on a trip to California when we lived on the east coast, but the only night we were going to be in the city on that trip it had been closed. I gave up on the idea of Mexican food (or even on the idea of one of Jeff's pizzerias, since I'd left the list at home). They weren't serving dinner yet, so we settled into a coffeeshop for a snack. Adriana woke up while we were there, but we were able to keep her happy with Cheerios and repeated readings of Good Dog, Carl.

After the disaster that was our lunch, I was a little intimidated by going into another restaurant with a rambunctious toddler, but the staff at Dosa handled it great. We stashed the stroller by the coat rack, and they had a high chair ready for us. I was also relieved to see two other groups with babies--it made me feel much more comfortable. Adriana loved the pappadam that they brought to our table, and our dosas arrived quickly and were delicious. We live near some excellent Indian restaurants, but I had missed South Indian food. Still, we didn't linger over the meal, and we wrestled the baby, our daypack, the carrier, and the stroller out through the crowded restaurant fairly quickly.

The busy day had left Adriana tired once again, and after dancing around the hotel room to the radio (she was quite pleased that she could turn on the clock radio herself by just pushing on the sleep button), she was asleep by 8:30.

We were determined that on Monday I would get my brunch, although we decided that we might grab something light beforehand to make that possible. But our dinner the night before had been early, so I woke up starving at 6:30. I showered quickly and ran across the street to pick up something at Starbucks. After juice, croissants, and hot chocolate, second breakfast seemed unnecessary, so we decided to pack up our things and head out to Land's End for our final walk before heading home.

The City Walks routes all begin at a spot along a bus route, but because we were driving we began just above Ocean Beach. We loaded the baby into the backpack, stopped to look out at the water, and were pleased to see dolphins porpoising just out beyond all the surfers. Realizing that we had taken a long enough time getting out of the hotel that we could eat again, we decided to grab second breakfast at Louis' before heading out on our walk. Adriana and I shared a big plate of pancakes that were fantastic.

Those little specks are dolphins, I swear.

The views along the Coastal Trail were fantastic. We marveled at the wide open ocean and speculated about the container ships we saw making their way toward the bay. We had intended to walk to the Palace of the Legion of Honor and then back to our car, but when we came around the corner at Land's End and saw the Golden Gate in the distance, we started talking about walking all the way there. I am a bad judge of distance but it looked like it could be done. And Brian had never walked across the bridge. We went back and forth as we walked, wondering if we could do it. As the trail emerged out onto the road, there was a sign that included distances: 2.7 miles to the bridge, 1.7 miles back to the Cliff House. Adriana was tolerating being in the backpack fairly well. Some of the time she babbled and giggled to herself, and when she started with her "Eh? Eh?" noises, we knew to check to see what she was signing for--usually she just wanted her water bottle, sometimes she was requesting a snack, and once she had asked for milk. So long as we met those needs promptly, she was fine. We decided to do it.

Things did get a bit confusing once we'd emerged from the Coastal Trail near Eagle Point. We could see the bridge, and we could see the beaches below us, but walking through Seacliff, we were unsure if we were on the right track. We stopped at China Beach, hoping that there would be a ranger or someone there (I don't know, it seemed reasonable at the time) who could help us. Instead we used the restrooms there and gazed back up at the huge houses above us. While we were there I thought I heard a cat meowing, but decided I was probably crazy. But, as we were leaving, I heard it again, and noticed a large, grey-striped cat sitting there looking at us. I approached it, in spite of Brian's warnings that it was probably mean. I scratched his head and noticed he had a tag on his collar: I PLAY BEACH I KNOW WAY HOME KTHX. I laughed, remembering our neighbor in Alexandria who had been stuck with vet bills a couple of times when her cat had been picked up by well-meaning strangers who had noticed his limp. He was a former barn cat who liked to be outside and had had the limp as long as Karen had had him. He died last year, but I thought that if he were still alive I would have had a similar tag made for him.

Back on the road, confused about whether we were actually going to find a trail to follow, I dug through our deck of cards and found a walk from the Golden Gate to Baker Beach. That didn't quite connect us back to the Coastal Trail, but we were able to tell from the map on the back of the card that we were on the right track. As we walked down toward Baker Beach, we started wondering if we would feel up to the walk back--after all, between the baby and the backpack itself, Brian was carrying an extra 30 pounds on him ("Hey, I lugged around an extra 30 pounds when I was pregnant with her," I told him). Once we were past the beach, the signs telling us how far to our destination were more frequent, giving us the encouragement we needed. There were several artillery batteries along the coast, and we stopped at the first one we came to, Chamberlin, but I refused to walk down the steep steps to the other ones, determined to just make it to the Golden Gate.

And then we were there, just like that. First it was right ahead of us and we could see the cars heading onto it, and then we went through an underpass, and suddenly we were on the other side. We stopped on the grass for a drink and a snack and a diaper change. As we sat there on the grass, Brian asked me, "Do you want to walk to the other side?" I considered it for a moment, thinking that it wasn't a very long bridge and that I was feeling pretty good, before realizing that he was joking. Instead, we picked up our things and headed back the way we'd come. We laughed noticing the little three-wheeled yellow cars we'd been seeing around since Saturday, because this time we could hear the computer talking to the passengers, reminding them to look to the left at the stop sign before continuing on to the right. "In case you don't have your wife with you to nag at you," I told Brian.

The other side!

The walk back seemed shorter than the way there. The sun, which had come out sometime between our pancakes and when we'd reached the beach, was starting to disappear into the clouds again, so we kept up a good pace to stay warm. Adriana was starting to lose patience with the whole endeavor (she had napped a little bit on the way to the bridge, but the backpack isn't ideal for sleeping), so I walked along putting Cheerios and pieces of freeze-dried apples into her mouth, since she'd given up on feeding herself.

Looking back the way we came.

We made one last detour, up to the Palace of the Legion of Honor. We watched a couple having wedding portraits taken while we stretched out our legs and backs. Adriana asked to nurse, so I fed her and then took a couple of pictures of Rodin's Thinker. We circled the parking lot, studying the Holocaust Memorial and admiring the views of the city before looping back down to the path.

It was a relief to see the Cliff House in front of us at last. We passed by it back to our car ("Look at that view!" a Go Car computer exclaimed to its passengers as they came around the bend and passed us). We wondered about heading back into the Mission to find a good taqueria, but instead opted to head back down the peninsula, giving the baby a chance to rest. We saw hang gliders and parachuters as we drove down the Great Highway, which seemed somehow like the perfect end to the weekend.


And it would have been the perfect end. We would have come home triumphant, pleased that we had managed a successful trip with the baby, having figured out how to travel in a city and do a decent length hike (10 miles!) with a toddler, but we pushed things a little too far by deciding to grab a bite of dinner in Palo Alto on our way home. Adriana woke up as we got her out of the car, and proceeded to let her discontent to be well known. Brian drank his margarita while I took her outside, then I went back in to drink mine and eat my enchiladas while he occupied her looking into storefronts, and then we switched again so he could eat. Finally we went home, where Adriana delighted in seeing all her toys again, and fell fast asleep by eight o'clock. And we weren't too far behind her.

So now we feel pretty confident about traveling with a toddler, although I am a little terrified of taking her on a plane. We know how to meet her needs while we're out and about, and if we do so promptly, we don't have to move at a much slower pace than we used to. Last fall we declined a trip with some of Brian's colleagues for a hike near Stinson Beach, but now I think we could handle it. I'm looking forward to doing more hiking, and to doing more walking around the city. The City Walks deck of cards was a good investment, I think. I wish the cards included a bit more detail, both on distances, and on some of the things you come across, but they gave us good starting points. The walks are pretty short and easy, but they can also be combined with nearby walks for a longer outing. We did the walks from eight cards over the weekend, so we only have 42 more to go.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

I am sort of amazed at how grown up she seems compared to this time last year.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

13 months

I was going to post this on the eleventh, but then fate intervened. And by fate I mean a gigantic tantrum that lasted seemingly forever,* and left me shell-shocked and exhausted. Adriana didn't want me to sit at the computer and type. She didn't want me to play with her toys with her. She didn't want to be held or snuggled or nursed. She didn't want me to put her down. She didn't want to play peek-a-boo. She didn't want her sippy cup, but she also didn't want me to take it away. She also didn't seem to really want to arch her back, hurl herself to the floor, and scream, but she did plenty of it anyhow. It was a warm day and the windows were open and I started to wonder what the neighbors were thinking, as the baby was screaming and sobbing as if in pain. After about an hour of her screaming and my attempts to comfort her, I asked her if she wanted to read Good Dog, Carl, Adriana's book of the week. Still crying, she went and found it in the other room, and brought it back to me. She sat on my lap, shuddering with residual sobs, and I read her the book over and over. Whenever I started to set the book down to reach for another one, she protested, so we looked at the same picture book for about 40 minutes. Then everything was fine. Adriana toddled off to play by herself, and I sat and stared, wondering how on earth I would ever deal with a two-year-old, if this is what a one-year-old is like.

But then, awhile later when she was playing by herself, I sat down in the armchair, hoping to finish my book, and Adriana brought me over another book that she loves these days and asked to be picked up. We read that book over and over too. Adriana would look back and forth between my face and the book with a big smile, as I counted dogs and made barking noises. Sometimes she would take the book from me, and then turn the pages and babble. And then she leaned back against me, sighing and stroking my face, and we snuggled there in the armchair.

In spite of the tantrums, things are more positive than negative these days. Adriana is so loving right now. She gives her monkey and her doll hugs and kisses, and carries the monkey around the house. She come to me with her arms open for a hug, and pushes her open mouth against my cheek for a slobbery kiss. She loves other babies, and will crouch down in front of a baby in a carseat at yoga, so she can wave and smile, or gently pet the hair of a baby having tummy time on a blanket near his mama.

While she can go longer between feedings now, there are still days when she hardly eats any real food. But there are days when she eats well, and I actually notice a decline in how much she nurses. She loves to eat Cheerios, beans, bananas, little pieces of tofu and cooked carrots and sweet potato and chard. She doesn't object to strong flavors, often sharing our curry with us, although sweet things, such as toast with peach jam, are also big hits.

She walks relatively steadily now, getting where she wants to go (and is frustrated sometimes when we insist on putting her in a stroller or backpack). She climbs the play structure at the park (with me hovering right behind her), and easily climbed onto the hearth and the couch at my sister's house last weekend. Sometimes she crawls after a ball, and I love to see her do that--babies look so funny when they crawl. But whereas a month ago she would drop down to crawl when she wanted to get somewhere quickly, she usually realizes quickly that now she can get there more quickly on two feet.

I've struggled some with adjusting to toddler-hood. I think some women have difficulty adjusting to life with a baby, but I feel that I was able to get into that routine fairly quickly (or perhaps it just seems that way in hindsight) and instead am hitting a sort of wall as I try to deal with a determined toddler. Some of it is that I miss having a little baby. Some is that I am simply learning to deal with these new challenges. After my yoga class on Sunday, Brian and Adriana were waiting for me on a nearby plaza. It was wonderful to see Brian kneeling down, playing with Adriana, and even better to see the little girl in striped leggings and a navy blue windbreaker turn to see me and toddle over with an excited grin on her face.

*And then I didn't post yesterday because fate intervened in the form of a sunny day that totally required a trip to the beach.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Sometimes I am surprised by what it is I miss about our time living in DC. I wasn't surprised to miss my friends or even some of our favorite restaurants, but I wasn't expecting to miss my old neighborhood. When we "lived in DC," we weren't actually in DC--we were in the Northern Virginia suburbs. I went out a month before we moved to find a place for us to live, with visions of a cute basement apartment in Georgetown or a row house in Adams-Morgan, or maybe some sort of apartment in Dupont Circle. But the reality of all those things wasn't exactly what I'd pictured--the Georgetown basements I looked at were dim and cramped, Adams-Morgan was out of our price range, and the one Dupont high rise I checked out was...a high rise. I was soon calling about listings in Arlington and Alexandria, and on the morning of the second day of my househunt, I took a bus from the metro to a development in Alexandria which had cute, colonial brick condos, plenty of trees, and even parking. I called Brian afterwards to tell him I thought I'd found us our place, excitedly telling him that it was large, full of light, and not a bad commute for either of us, although it wasn't on the metro. I'd lived my whole life in the suburbs, and, in spite of romantic ideas of city life, apparently that wasn't going to change any time soon.

We lived in that neighborhood, Parkfairfax, for all of our five years. After three years, when we wanted to move to a place with an extra room and a washer/dryer (and when our landlord wanted to sell the unit we were living in), we moved just down the street from the place I originally picked out. Parkfairfax was built during the 1940s, just a little south of the Pentagon. There were some things about the apartments that let you know that the place had been built that long ago--weird wiring for the light switches, and original wood countertops in some kitchens. There was a condo association that kept everything looking rather Camazotz, I suppose--they had an azalea sale every May and a bulb sale every fall, so that most people's gardens were similar, and there were rules about what you could have out on your patio--but it did seem sweet and even sort of quaint. As a Californian, I was amazed that the large lawns weren't watered--they just stayed green most of the year--and by the brick buildings, which I was pretty sure meant we were all doomed in the event of an earthquake.

Mostly I miss Parkfairfax in the evenings when I close the blinds in my bedroom so that the people in the next building five yards away can't peer directly into our windows. I miss my Parkfairfax bedroooms. In our first apartment there, our windows were at ground level, but they were partially hidden by large azaleas. I could lie in bed and peer through the bushes at our little patio. Our second place in Parkfairfax lacked a patio, but the bedroom window was perfect: nearly right up against it was a dogwood tree, and an oak towered over the open space below us. In the winter the trees were bare, and we could sort of see across to other apartments, but they were far enough away that we couldn't see much. In the spring the dogwood bloomed, and then it and the oak leafed out, keeping our room relatively cool and shaded--in fact, I hadn't realized how much darker our room was in the summer until I stood there just before we moved and remembered how bright our room had been as I'd laid in bed in labor with Adriana back in January.

But what started me thinking about this was something that completely took me by surprise. When I went to vote on Tuesday, I missed voting in Parkfairfax. I loved getting ready for work a little earlier than usual and then walking over to the nearby synagogue to stand in line with my neighbors while we waited our turn. Even if I didn't know many of them by name, we recognized each other from our bus rides (I think half the neighborhood rode the bus to the Pentagon Metro every day) and walks, and we would all nod and smile politely. The last time we voted, when I was quite pregnant, we waited with a man who lived across the street from us and rode the bus at the same time most mornings, and as he stood with his two-year-old in his arms, he joked with Brian about doing curls to get ready for our baby. When I was sent to wait in another line because when we'd moved the previous year I hadn't changed my address but the registrar somehow knew about it, I wasn't the only one in that line who had to change my registration right there because I had moved within the precinct. Maybe I'll feel differently when we've lived here a bit longer, and perhaps the fact that not working means I was able to vote after lunch, when there wasn't any line, rather than before heading in to the office. But I definitely missed my old community this week.

Monday, February 04, 2008


One of my professors from Santa Cruz started encouraging Brian and me to do sign language with Adriana last summer. His granddaughter is only a few months older than Adriana and, by nine months old, was already able to communicate a bit with it. Brian and I thought it sounded like a great idea, and in fact, I'd been occasionally signing "milk" to her before nursing since she was a few months old, but we hadn't been really dedicated about it. Eventually, though, I checked out Sign With Your Baby from the library. We read a chapter here and there, looked up a couple of signs, and then when back to just signing milk occasionally. I knew she recognized the word when I said it, but

So a week or so before Christmas, when Adriana signed milk for the first time, we were surprised and immensely pleased. After enjoying this new ability she had to communicate we started adding more signs. Soon she was pointing at the stereo and signing for music when she wanted me to turn some on, or signing when she noticed music coming on during the news in the evening. Brian is better at it than I am, pointing at something and making the sign for it over and over as they play: he is the one responsible for teaching her "ball" and "monkey," her two favorite toys.

It's fun watching her catch onto a sign, and she is learning a couple of new ones every week. Early last week I put her in her highchair and gave her a slice of cheese to snack on while I cut up some vegetables for soup. She started to fuss and I went to get her out of the chair, but then seemed to sign "eat," so I gave her another piece of cheese, which she ate happily. On Friday as I was folding laundry, Adriana kept dropping her sippy cup into the hamper, and then whining for me to get it out. Each time I went to retrieve it for her, I would ask, "Do you need me to get your water out?" putting a ridiculous amount of emphasis on "water" and "out" as I signed them. Finally, I heard the cup hit the bottom of the hamper and looked over at the baby, who was patting her mouth with an open hand. Not quite the sign for water, but close enough. And she's done it over and over since then, both when she sees her cup and when it's not there but she wants a drink.

I heard somewhere that babies that sign often talk late, probably because they can communicate without speaking. I'm not sure if there are scientific data to back that up, and I think I've also heard that it doesn't affect when babies talk and that babies who sign talk earlier. But at eleven months old Adriana didn't have any words at all, and now, at nearly thirteen months she still doesn't (according to my baby book, I started at nine months), but I am finding it doesn't matter. She is going to be a late talker, so it relieves us all to have Adriana able to communicate with us beyond just fussing. Normally when we are at my dad's for a visit, I have trouble knowing when to feed her, because even when she seems to be fussy and a little hungry, she is so busy playing with Grandpa and getting into cupboards, that she won't eat. Last week when we were there, I didn't worry about nursing her until she asked, which she eventually did, and she really ate, too, not just nursing for a second before pulling away to see what she was missing.

This morning, I was awake but still exhausted, so when Adriana began to stir, I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep, hoping she would go back to sleep. Instead I felt her sit up and then touch my face. I opened my eyes, and there, so close I couldn't even focus, was a little fist signing for milk.