Forty plus one

I wrote these thoughts yesterday morning. I now realize there’s a few similarities between what I wrote on Xavi’s due date and what I feel on Bubble’s due date.

I seem to have skipped the nesting phase. I didn’t have it big with Xavi either, but there was definitely more prep in readying our home.

I’m glad baby didn’t come over the weekend. Xavi’s babysitter was out of town. She’s our plan for when I go in to labor. We don’t have a backup. Unless, of course, baby comes once my parents arrive.

My mom and dad will be here in a week!

I went on maternity leave just as the fall semester was starting. The transition from summer university life to fall has always rankled me and I’m not sad to skip it.

Despite being on leave I’m still doing work from home. A busy summer meant getting work done but not planning as much as I needed to for leave.

I have a prenatal massage today. I double checked with the spa to make sure that I wouldn’t be charged for canceling late if I do go in to labor.

Currently reading A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros and it’s amazing. I’ve already cried about three times. She feels like my wise tía and such a poet in the sense that she writes what others feel.

Part of what bummed me out about Xavi being a week late was waiting through important days. I thought it would be SO cool if he was born on Papá Chepe’s birthday. As the patriarch of a big family he had no birthday twins and it was time for at least one.

Added today

Lots of people ask me if Xavi is excited about becoming a big brother. Before a few days ago, I’d say I didn’t really know. And if he was excited, it wasn’t expressed the way he typically shows (jumping, eyes lighting up in that “oh, boy, oh boy!” sense).

But I think the efforts we’ve been making have helped. He has books about becoming a big brother and having a baby in the home. He’s seen the apartment start to be populated with baby things. On Saturday, he attended a “siblings are special” class at the hospital. We pushed it by scheduling the class just a few days before my due date, but the previous date didn’t work for me due to work. Xavi got to tour the labor and delivery ward again (he went with us the first time we toured), saw a real newborn in the nursery, made a birthday poster for baby, and got to practice helping change a baby’s diaper.

40 weeks

During his recent speech therapy appointment his therapist brought a baby doll. She told Sean that Xavi did really well feeding the baby, brushing hair, hugging and singing baby songs. He was very sweet and gentle.

He’s also started doing a baby act. He does a “wah waaah” cry if we mention a baby and wants to be held in a cradle position. I ask him what baby needs. Diaper change? Feeding? Cuddles? A nap? And he just laughs.

And at a recent baby shower, he gave a 2 month old baby a gentle hug unprompted.

Yesterday, Sean and Xavi went to pick me up at the spa. Xavi asked Sean if they were going to the hospital to get me and baby.

He still doesn’t say, “yes” if you ask if he’s excited. But I think he is.

As for how I’m feeling? No signs of labor starting — that’s what people really want to know. And okay, but uncomfortable as one would expect a woman to feel late in pregnancy. I took long walks while waiting for Xavi but won’t be doing that because it’s hot and humid. Plus, I’m just not that comfortable.

Enough: On reaching milestones

When he first smiled as a tiny baby, I remember thinking, this is amazing. It was enough. And then he laughed and I wondered, how did I ever know how beautiful life could be before I heard his laugh? And then he clapped and showed his approval when I sang and my heart felt like it was going to burst. It was the best compliment I’d ever received and I wondered how I even knew he liked the songs before he clapped and smiled approvingly.

Each of these little milestones floored me at the time. They were all enough in the sense that I didn’t think, “I can’t wait until he’s doing X.” In that moment, they were exactly what I needed and wanted as a new mom. My son was happy and healthy and, like the nursery song goes, he was showing it with his clapping and smiling. And yet, when he added something — words, songs, dances, expressions, his own jokes — it became even better.

How does it just keep getting better? This is the way it’s designed to be, right?

One day I’m singing the lullaby and then the next he’s singing along. One moment I’m leading bedtime prayers for his grandparents and other family members. The next he chimes in that he wants to pray for his iPad and Grandma Eula’s iPad. While Sean suppresses giggles, I call him a joker. Xavi doubles down with the banana, banana, banana, orange knock-knock joke. But it’s only the orange part, his favorite. When he clamors for songs from his favorite musical, Hamilton, I object because cabinet battles get him too riled up, not something conducive to bedtime. So I go with the lullaby, “Dear Theodosia.”

As I sing “and you’ll blow us all away, some day, some day” he joins in. It’s harmonious and perfect. He’s a good little singer. He gets it from his grandpa, my dad.

And I thought, this is amazing. He’s no longer a baby, but it’s still the best feeling. I know from just three years and a week into this that there will be many more of these moments (si Dios quiere), but they’ll catch me off guard. My response will likely be the same. I’ll be awed, amazed and bursting with love and pride.

I don’t yet know what it will be, but it will be enough. It always is.

Xavi is three

dodgercap

Xavi has been in speech therapy in Ithaca for less than a year. However, Sean and I have already met with a number of professionals in early intervention who consistently ask us to describe our son. The last time we did it was in a meeting with school district officials as Xavi’s impending third birthday meant he would age out of early intervention services through the county health department and his speech therapy would be handled by the local school district.

“Tell us about your son. What are his strengths? What does he like doing? What does he need to work on?”

grandparents2

Despite having to answer this question in some way, a number of times, the inclusion of “strengths” threw me off. I suspect Sean felt the same as he was silent longer than me. I read and write evaluations all the time at work, but didn’t want to feel like I was doing the same for my son.

Still, I answered.

metroexpo

I told them that at five days shy of his third birthday, Xavi was still enamored by all things related to trains (“toot toots”). He’s expanded his fandom to other forms of transportation. He loves anything that moves. Cars are fun to play with, he loves to ride the bus and gets excited when he sees the diggers at the construction sites around town. He asks to go to the airport too.

splash

I told the two women who work with the school district, our current coordinator of services with the county and Xavi’s new speech therapist (his first one in Ithaca moved away a month ago), that Xavi likes books and puzzles. Since his exponential word growth began in March – same time he began going to a small group home daycare full-time – he’s added in singing. He sings “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” stealing my job as we go through the bedtime routine.

fathersday

He’s very affectionate and loving, he gives the best hugs and sloppy kisses. He’s friendly and very good at remembering all the people in his life who love him tremendously. He’s taken more to pretend play with his toys. He loves bubbles, running and jumping on the bed, in puddles or on dad. Sean added that he’s great with directions and can probably lead you to any train table in Ithaca as well as Dunkin Donuts.

Xavi the Hamiltot

I forgot to brag that he knows his alphabet, can count to ten, knows his shapes and that he’s a Hamiltot, a toddler who has joined the Hamilton fandom (“Hamilwin” to him). [Look at my son! Pride is not the word I’m searching for, there is so much more inside me now!]

grandparentsmay

I noted that even though he is WAY more verbal than he was at this time last year, he can improve on his pronunciation. For example, he says “pip” rather than “chip” despite having no problem with “cheese.” The speech therapist called this fronting and stopping. Although Sean and I understand him about 75% of the time, he’s intelligible to those who don’t know him about half the time. When he talks to himself during play time he’s even less intelligible.

When we finished, one of the school district representatives, “Wow, you really know your son. He’s lucky to have such involved parents.”

mothersday

Really, I feel lucky to be Xavi’s mom, to get to see him grow and change – while still being just as cuddly as ever – in everything from hair to speech to having a little brother or sister.

***

3rdbdaycake

Today is Xavi’s third birthday. We celebrated over the weekend in Long Island. My mother-in-law invited family, neighbors and friends from church. When it was time for the cake, Xavi was so excited. He even sang “Happy Birthday” along with his guests.

The only downside was that we were rained out, but I don’t think Xavi minded because there were balloons, new toys and cake.

Happy birthday, Xavi!

Most photos by Sean [Flickr]. See his favorites from the past year on his blog.

The crying room

On Sunday we changed up our normal schedule. Rather than go to 10:30 am Mass at the church a few blocks away we chilled in our pajamas a little longer and opted for the 11:30 service across town. A plus of waiting would be that the second church has air conditioning and it was close to the mall so I could get a pedicure afterwards. Work has been very busy and stressful and I wanted to treat myself after the successful ending of two high school engineering summer camps for 89 juniors and seniors.

smilingcx

We arrived to church a little late and sat in a pew close to the door. Throughout the service, Xavi was a little noisier than usual. It wasn’t crying or screaming, but noticeable if you were sitting near us or if the church was quiet. Typically, we bring toys, books, crayons and snacks to entertain him. Still, some days he’s more active and noisy. No one has ever commented on his behavior.

Except Sunday.

Just as the priest was starting the Eucharistic Prayer (in a Catholic Mass, it’s shortly before Communion, everyone is standing and the priest is the only one speaking), Xavi crossed to the other side of our pew and walked in to the center aisle. I walked over to ask him to come back and he resisted a little as I pleaded. Just then, an elderly lady crossed the aisle to whisper to me, “You know, there’s a very nice children’s room.” She nodded back toward the children’s room, also known as a “crying room” in older churches.

I might’ve said, “Yes, I know.” But I’m not sure. I just wanted get back to the other end of the pew where Sean was standing and bring Xavi with me.

The comment stayed with me and made me more upset. Tears of indignation started to well up and I was noticeably sniffling. Sean tried to comfort me, but I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom to try and calm down. When I returned from the bathroom I told Sean I wanted to leave and we left right away. (I hate being an angry crier.)

Sean asked what the lady told me and was indignant too. “Xavi was hardly the only kid in there making noise.” He also noted that she had looked over at us several times.

Since I didn’t talk to the lady, I don’t know her intention. She may have thought she was being helpful, but I felt shamed especially given that she wasn’t sitting near us and went out of her way to inform me of the children’s room at a particularly quiet/reverent point in the Mass. Xavi was just being a toddler and Sean and I were doing the best we could. It also felt weird since we don’t usually go to this church and I’ve never used the “crying room”. I’ve peeked in through a window and it looks fairly small and like a place nursing moms might want to go to for more privacy.

I’m not opposed to choosing to use a room for families with small children. St. John Vianney — the church I grew up in — was fairly modern and didn’t have a separate room. St. Augustine, the church we attended in Culver City, was many years older and had a children’s room. Once Xavi was more mobile, we’d sit in there most Sundays. It was often nuts and sometimes the sound system didn’t work so as adults we barely heard anything except the kids. I also didn’t like being separated from some of the more active parts of the service, like singing. And there was that one time when older kids were not nice.

I see children’s/crying rooms like a nursing cover. No one should make you use one. If it’s your style, then go for it. It’s illogical to expect all parents of small children to hide away. We wouldn’t even fit in there!

I’d rather not use a children’s room these days. I like that Xavi participates in his own way in the service. On Sunday before he started getting more antsy, he tried to sing along to the hymns. It was cute.

cayugafaces

I wish I hadn’t let that lady get to me so much, that I would’ve just forgotten her words. But that’s never been my style. I’ve always gotten too emotional and now that I’m pregnant and a mom who wants to protect her son it’s worse. Plus, being homesick and missing the younger, more diverse church communities we were used to adds another element.

But people are going to judge whether it’s in a church that has couples promise to raise their children as Catholic, in a restaurant, airplane or mall. I should probably develop new coping mechanisms or retorts.

This time around

I say/write “this time around” a lot these days when talking/writing about my pregnancy. I can’t think about what’s happening now without my reference point of 2012/13.

It’s all feels so different and that amazes and baffles me. How could it have been so easy just a few years ago? Why am I still feeling morning sickness/nausea at the end of the 2nd trimester?

The big — and most important — things are still the same. Once again I’m experiencing an uncomplicated rather “easy” pregnancy and all signs point to carrying a health baby. I can’t complain.

But I still think I should write something, just so I have it for reference to look back on. If these kids ever want to know what they were like in utero, I can go to my archives and say, “Xavi, we called you Meatball and you didn’t kick me until 23 weeks! I was totally freaking out. And ______, we didn’t find out if you were a boy or a girl. Your nickname was Bubble and you began kicking/punching around 18 weeks.”

Bump and Xavi photobomb

What’s the same:
Relatively uncomplicated
Carrying “small.” I haven’t gained much weight, but ditched my pre-pregnancy pants around 20 weeks.

Different:
Seemingly everything.

Health care
Since we moved states and I have a new employer, I have different health insurance and new healthcare providers. In LA I had Kaiser Permanente, a large HMO. I was assigned an OB/Gyn after my first same-day appointment at about 5 weeks just to confirm I was pregnant with a blood test. My doctor was pretty awesome and my prenatal care was truly “covered.” I never had a co-pay for any visits or anything diagnostic such as a test or ultrasound. In fact, the only thing I paid for was parking until delivery/hospital stay which was a reasonable co-pay of $250. We did pay for optional labor and newborn prep course. All labs, ultrasounds — which I had every single visit — and breastfeeding support was covered. I never even saw a bill from Kaiser.

This time I’ve found a local practice that has both midwives and ob/gyns. I’ve opted to only see the midwives as I’m comfortable with that. Instead of seeing the same provider every four weeks, I see whoever is available when I schedule. So far, I’m happy with my care but grumbling about co-pays, co-insurance and prenatal care that isn’t 100% covered as I thought when I chose my benefits plan. I was pretty confused when I got my first bill for the first trimester blood draw to test things like my iron level. I know I’m fortunate to have insurance and we can afford the costs, but it’s still much different. As for quality of care, gone are the days of seeing my baby at every appointment. I took that for granted with Xavi, but was so excited for the 20-week anatomy scan because I’d get to see baby again! The baby’s profile looked so much like Xavi and I can’t wait to see what he/she looks like. I do have competent, kind and respectful caregivers. They don’t treat me like I’m ancient just because I’m 35 years old or push extra tests on me.

Xavi and Bubble

Symptoms
I had it pretty easy with Xavi. I tell people that on the same day I went in to labor at 41 weeks I took a long midday walk hoping it would help get labor started since I was scheduled for an induction the next morning. The walk was more of a hike since the 5-mile route is pretty hilly. I didn’t run, but I did stay active through walking and generally felt okay. I had my weird dizzy spells, but was able to get through them okay and never actually fainted. As for nausea/morning sickness, it was fairly mild.

Bubble is kicking my butt. My morning sickness in the first trimester was much worse than with Xavi. I was happy on the days I kept all my meals down. Once the fatigue and nausea let up in the second trimester then the constant colds started. This coincided with Xavi starting daycare. I got whatever he got, but worse and for a longer period. The congestion made my symptoms worse. All the sickness has probably contributed to slower weight gain. I also have more aches and pains. It’s probably a combination of second pregnancy, age and being heavier than I was in 2012/13. I’m also feeling the effects of being less active. I get tired walking short distances or being on my feet a lot. I know with the Ithaca heat and humidity I’ll feel more uncomfortable.

Baby
I didn’t feel Xavi move until nearly 23 weeks. It stressed me out. When he did move, I never felt it was uncomfortable, no sharp kicks or jabs. It was most amusing when he had hiccups. I’ve felt Bubble move since 18 weeks and he/she is pretty active. It’s nice to be in the middle of work and be distracted by Bubble dancing around in there, but sometimes it just feels weird. 

We also don’t know the sex. I liked knowing with Xavi. Since we were preparing a nursery and my family was planning a big baby shower, it gave some guidance on how we wanted to decorate or what gifts family/friends might want to buy. I know that’s not necessary, but gender neutral clothes is harder to find than it should be. Once we found out baby was a boy, it made things more concrete and helped us move forward on the name.

With Bubble we are not setting up a new nursery and already have all the key baby equipment. If the baby is a boy, then he’ll have tons of hand me downs. If a girl, she can wear Xavi’s clothes too and I know her grandmothers will go nuts buying her new stuff.

Names
With Xavi we had a shortlist for boy and girl names midway through. We had a front-runner by 6 months.

I’m not sure we even have a shortlist yet. (Update: Sean disagrees and is lobbying for his first choice boy name. He’s also convinced we are having a boy.)

B&W party pre-pic

Emotions, excitement and stuff
I’ve read about other women not connecting as much to a second pregnancy. I can relate. It’s not that I’m not excited, but a lot of the preparation we did for Xavi isn’t happening this time around for space/logistics reasons.

Being away from our families and almost all our close friends adds another layer. In LA, my mom and sister would be oohing and aahing over my bump and friends would ask the standard questions, “Do you know what you’re having? Any names?”

Here, few people actually know I’m expecting and if they do they’re not asking questions which I think is a factor of age. From my previous experience, I knew that college/grad students aren’t that excited about babies. In LA it seems like everyone is pregnant. Four of my cousins have had babies this year or are expecting and a few close friends have also had babies.

I did feel some of the excitement when I was in LA recently for Adrian and Alexis’ wedding. It seemed like all my tías and cousins had an opinion on the baby’s sex based on how I was carrying (low vs high) or if Xavi was clingy/jealous. I also got to meet/see some of the new babies in the family/friend group. Xavi even held his newest baby cousin, 2.5 month old Zack, and it was adorable.

I definitely feel Bubble and think about him/her, but I have a lot less time to just sit around and contemplate this baby and think about how our lives are going to change. I already know what labor and birth is like, though I know better to expect the same. This goes for newborn life too. When I get home, I’m not reading my baby book or pregnancy blogs. I’m playing with Xavi, doing the dishes with him, reading to him or trying to get ahead on work for the next day. And I’m thinking of how to prepare Xavi too.

The womb where it happens

This is how I wanted to announce my second pregnancy. Because small Hamilton obsession.  (Nope, still haven’t seen it.)

 

Sean didn’t even like me joking about waiting a month to tell him just so I could use the line from That Would be Enough. I didn’t. He found out right away, not that I could’ve kept it a secret. Yay first trimester nausea and vomiting (worse this time around). Now it doesn’t make sense because I’ve known since before Christmas. 

 
I have to admit that Sean’s pregnancy/pop culture mashup announcement is better. It features big-brother-to-be, Xavi, required when announcing a second pregnancy via social media.  And Star Wars may be a bit more recognizable than Hamilton. 

Enjoy the video

Oh! I’m due mid/late August, currently 20 weeks. We don’t know the baby’s sex despite being able to know rather early due to a blood test for chromosomal abnormalities. Since they look at chromosomes they can tell the sex with 99% certainty. No need to wait until the anatomy scan or for baby to be in a showy mood. I took the test at 14 weeks, but didn’t look at my results. The midwife just gave me info about the relevant results for baby’s development and health. We will likely wait until birth, much to the chagrin of the grandmothers. They don’t like that they’ll have to Wait for It.

Tips on preparing Xavi for his transition to big brother status are welcomed! 

Apologies to Lin-Manuel Miranda for bastardizing his song title. 

The first Ithaca winter

Earlier this year I tweeted.

I made it a mini goal.

Frozen.

I had three key reasons. First, weather posts on social media seem a bit lazy. There are so many other things to post about. Second, I wanted to avoid any responses from friends and family in LA gloating about the 70-80 degree weather in the winter months or the “I told you so” comments. I don’t need reminders of how nice and warm it is in LA this time of year, I see it all over social media. Last, I wanted to avoid the “welcome to real winter” comments. As an LA/Southern California booster of sorts, I chafe at comments that my hometown doesn’t have a “real winter” or seasons in general. Why does northeast/midwest winter count as “real winter” when the country (continent, planet, etc) is home to a variety of climates? It’s silly to think winter much closer to the equator and at sea level would be as cold as it is several degrees north. Plus, someone always has it worse. I’m sure Canadians laugh at what a NYer calls cold.

Running around in the snow

All that said, I haven’t had much to really complain about. Winter hasn’t been that bad. Ithaca/upstate NY avoided the big snowstorm that hit NYC and the mid-Atlantic about a month ago with record snowfalls. The temps have been mild for the region, especially compared to last winter, so I’m told. Ithaca and the university are really good about dealing with the snow we do get (max has been a few inches/day). The university doesn’t even do snow days. I don’t drive to work so I don’t need to deal with brushing off snow or waiting for the car to warm up each morning. I don’t need to spend much time out in the elements because the bus stops are 4-6 blocks away (max) and 1 block away (minimum). And we don’t have driveways or sidewalks we need to shovel or maintain in the winter.

Long coat status

Of course, I had to upgrade my winter gear. I bought a short down coat (Nordstrom Rack, for the win). This replaced my every day wool blend coat that no longer closes (this one). My generous in-laws gave me a long and very warm down coat for Christmas that is perfect for the days it’s in the 20s and below. I haven’t had to buy any additional underclothes to keep me warm under thin pants because the coat does it’s job. Sean and I exchanged snow boots as Christmas gifts and my sister hooked it up with warmer gloves.

Exploring the Children's Garden

Xavi is still adjusting to Ithaca winter. He has fleece-lined jeans, snow pants and a few puffy coats. We try to get him to keep his hats and mittens on, but he/his hair have their own ideas. He insists on being carried when it’s colder than the 40s, but otherwise he’s happy running around.

Wind chill warning

Sure, there are weekends when I just want to hibernate. See above. (I didn’t even know wind chill warnings were a thing.) Sean was the only one who went out that day and it was only for very quick errands. It took him longer to get dressed than to run the errands. I didn’t think Xavi needed to experience what -22 feels like. That weekend was an exception.

Overall, we’re managing, but I do miss hoodie weather and almost all things LA (not traffic though, Ithaca is nice in that regard). But what’s new?

2015 Bookishness in Review

completed

CHALLENGE CHECK-IN

75 books overall. CHECK.

10 books from my bookshelf. I read 7/10 in this category.

24 books fulfilling the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge criteria. CHECK.

6 books meeting the What’s in a Name Challenge criteria: CHECK!

  • -ing Word: Late-Talking Children: A Symptom or a Stage? by Stephen Camarata
  • Color: Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
  • Familial relation: Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
  • Body of water: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
  • City: Still Water Saints by Alex Espinoza (got creative with this one as the fictional city in the book is Agua Mansa which translates to “still water”)
  • Animal: 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

5 books from NPR’s 100 Must-Reads For Kids 9-14 list: CHECK.

  • A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

52 books from Pop Sugar’s Reading Challenge. CHECK with tons of overlap.

READING STATS

Thanks to Melissa/Feminist Texican for the idea to use infogr.am to organize my reading.

LISTS

Top ten favorite novels (alpha order):
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Still Water Saints by Luis Espinoza
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kawn
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Young adult and middle grade novels:
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
You and Me and Him by Kris Dinnison
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson [poetry]

Short story collection:
Night at the Fiestas by Lisa Valdez Quade
We Live in Water by Jess Walter

Non-fiction:
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Hector Tobar
Late-Talking Children: A Symptom or a Stage? by Stephen Camarata

Memoir or essay:
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Humor:
Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

Favorite new (to me) authors:
Louise Erdrich
Angela Flournoy (best debut)
Celeste Ng
Roxane Gay

Lived up to the hype:
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

Most over-hyped:
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Favorite covers:
All the Light We Cannot See had a neat sheen to the cover and even though I read The Buried Giant in ebook form, I still checked it out at a bookstore and it looked pretty.

Dinnison Doerr

Ishiguro Sloan

Woodson LeeOmalley

The 11th and 12th months

I figure before the year ends I need to at least wrap up the last few months.

November seemed to go by quickly thanks to travel in the second half. I attended the American Indian Science and Engineering Society national conference in Phoenix for work. My job includes some recruitment for graduate and undergraduate admissions and student group advising. This trip combined those aspects.

DTW is Xavi's new favorite airport.

When I got the travel schedule in the summer I immediately knew I wanted to make this an extended trip since the conference ended a few days before Thanksgiving. I worked it out so Sean and Xavi would come to Phoenix with me and we’d spend the days after the conference in LA. We got our first taste of long travel days from Ithaca to LA. Pro: Xavi loved the Detroit airport in-terminal tram (because trains). Con: including driving to/from the airports the trip from LA to Ithaca was 13 hours.

Looking for a mind at work

The conference itself was a great learning experience and I got to know some of our students better. The university sent 6 students to attend and/or present their research. Personally, it was the first time American Indians have asked me if I was a American Indian or what tribe I was from. It was weird saying “no, I’m not Indian, I’m Mexican,” because the only difference is the border as I’m indigenous to this continent too.

We arrived in Phoenix on Wednesday the 18th. My parents arrived the next morning. They couldn’t wait until we made it to LA after the conference. They did fun stuff like going to the children’s museum a few blocks away while I worked.

Xavi is now a fan of Scottsdale. Got to ride 2 trains, a carousel, go in an actual Pullman car and check out some amazing model trains and cities.

On a free Saturday morning I joined them on a short trip to Scottsdale and the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend visiting not only because it was affordable and not too crowded. Xavi loved it of course because he got to ride big and little trains. I also found it cool to walk through a Pullman car that had once carried U.S. presidents in the first half of the 20th century. I also was a fan of the model railroads. They reminded me of our neighbor, Mr. Dale, who had his own model town and railroad in the garage. These model trains were on a different scale though and included interactive options for kids (e.g., a drive-in theater where you’re the one on the screen). We got there in the middle of their Christmas prep which I imagine must look pretty neat all lit up.

The conference ended on Saturday night and we returned to LA on Sunday morning.

Have trains will travel. Back in the Heights!

It was 80+ degrees in LA, warmer than Phoenix, and felt so good. The first afternoon we were home was full of several immediate and extended family members coming by to visit with Papá Chepe as usual. Xavi was spoiled by plenty of time with his grandparents and aunts and uncles.

In hindsight I feel like we should’ve done more during our trip but it was nice to just relax. Highlights:

Xavi doing chores like helping to pick up the leaves and walk Daisy and VR.

Thankful for my Ulta obsessed sister who treated me to a makeover day and a goodie bag of new makeup.

Getting pampered by my sister Lori. On Wednesday she took me to her stylist and I got a much needed haircut and dye job. The next day she did my makeup and we had a mini lesson on the basics. I typically just put moisturizer on my face. I relied on Lori to do my makeup for special events. Now that I’m across the country that’s not an option so Lori bought me a bunch of new makeup and gave me a mini lesson. I definitely felt cute for Thanksgiving with my hair and makeup done.

Pre-Thanksgiving pozole

Most important meal of the day

The food! We were spoiled by amazing homemade Mexican food like enchiladas, breakfast burritos from our favorite spot and pozole. Of course we had the requisite In-n-Out trip.

Meeting baby Alexander. Some close friends, Cain and Jessica, came by the house and I got to meet their newborn son, Alexander. I tried hard not to sing his name like in Hamilton. I’m still obsessed. It was also nice to see their older kids, Becka and Jordan. Other than seeing Cain and Jessica I didn’t see other LA friends (maybe for a longer trip). Sean did visit his former coworkers.

Papá Chepe is pre-gaming with a pozole brunch.

Seeing Papá Chepe. I see him on FaceTime calls but with his speech issues communication is easier in person.

We visited my mom’s classroom. Her students have heard so much about Xavi that when they found out he’d be visiting they asked if he could come to their Thanksgiving lunch. The high school students warmly welcomed Xavi and one boy even drew him a picture of a t-rex.

Christmas card 2015

Thanksgiving! I don’t remember much now aside from being very full and seeing lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. We also took the photo we used for our holiday card.

December

This month seemed to zoom by too. After returning from a conference and vacation I had a lot of catch up to close out the semester. [I still feel weird using semester rather than quarter.] We also had several holiday parties at work. I’m used to a small gathering at my supervisor’s house. This year we had: graduate student holiday party hosted by our office (Xavi and Sean came); dean’s holiday party for staff in the college; office holiday party hosted by the professor we work with (Xavi and Sean came too); and student service staff party at a local restaurant. I thought it would feel like a lot or be a drag, but it was actually a lot of fun. Xavi also made us proud by dancing to Bel Biv Devoe’s “Poison” and ATCQ’s “Bonita Applebaum.” He was just happy that there was plenty of cheese and brownies.

Xavi's first Christmas at the Campbell home

Christmas was pretty low key. I’ve never been one to decorate my own place much and since moving had cut down on the few decorations I did have. We didn’t even buy a tree. Nevertheless, Xavi still got to see lights and a tree crowded with presents at my in-laws. My mother-in-law went all out with the decorations given that this was the first time her grandson spent Christmas in NY. He was spoiled by presents and still hasn’t taken half of them out of the box. I felt spoiled by the highs in the 60-70s. I know lots of people said this didn’t feel like winter of the Christmas they were used to, but I felt quite at home and appreciative that it hasn’t been oppressively cold yet.

It's all fun and games until mom or dad steps on one of those blocks (barefoot, of course) in the middle of the night.

The big hits were Matchbox Cars, a Duplo farm set (my feet are already crying), and a set of books featuring Mickey & Friends. All the gifts and our bags barely fit in our car.

I have Christmas through New Year’s off from work, but we returned on Monday for Xavi’s speech therapy on Tuesday morning. . The drive was the longest we’ve experienced since Xavi got sick twice. He really doesn’t look sick, does he? Must remember to keep a roll of paper towels in the car.

NYE is just as quiet as it was last year. This year we have the excuse that we don’t know too many people in Ithaca and don’t have a trusted babysitter yet. It’s fine with us, I needed to catch up on some blogging anyway.

Happy New Year!