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Texas

Originally posted on BabyCenter.com 09/27/07 

Kim’s Tree
Kim’s origins are rooted in Houston, her whole family lives there, except for Nana (Kim’s mom). Over due by three years for a visit, Cousin Morgan’s high school graduation was as good as any reason for us to fly down and check in on the family.

Kim booked five non-stop round trip tickets on southwest airlines for herself, Olivia, Hailey, Nana, me and thirteen pieces of luggage. Everything about the flight went smoothly, a quick take-off, hardly any turbulence and a flawless landing. It was Hailey’s first time on an airplane and she belted out a big “whoaaaa” during take off. The kiddos quietly occupied themselves by watching movies on my laptop, munching endlessly on a feed-bag of junk and crafting cards for all their relatives.

Olivia’s Carbon Footprint on Hailey
Departing from our airport at the curbside check Olivia held Hailey back from exploring into the five minute passenger drop off avenue, which is ridiculously close to the security kiosk, while Kim, Nana and I dug out our ID’s and e-conformations. Olivia involuntarily buddied-up with Hailey and they strode through the airport hand in hand on the way to the gate, rolling back packs in tow. At the security check, Olivia made sure Hailey took her shoes off, showed her how to place all her belonging in the plastic container and then how to send it through the scanner. She had Hailey line up for the metal detector and told her to go one at a time. One might think that Olivia has traveled via airplane a hundred plus times seeing her instructive behavior while jumping through all the hoops at the airport. The truth is, she has been on an airplane only two other times; recently to Utah with me for a ski trip and on our last family trip to Texas when she was ten months old.

Hailey has an adaptive learning style, partly kinesthetic and mostly visual. Sure, she has learned a few important rules from mom, dad and from an assortment of caregivers. Predominantly she parrots her older sister. For instance, at around eighteen months old, following Olivia’s lead, Hailey started using the potty. She didn’t hear one bit of direction on the finer points of using the potty from Kim nor me. She refused the training bucket thing, she wanted to be like her sister and use the Dora training seat on the ‘big’ toilet. She wouldn’t accept any help getting on the ‘big’ toilet, climbing on herself, even if it took her two or three attempts. And recently, through Olivia’s example; Hailey has ditched wearing night time pull-ups, refusing to put them on anymore. She is not even three, she can’t hold it throughout the night and she is unable to wake herself to use the potty. We try to rouse her before we go to sleep but she will not get out of bed. So, what do we do? You guessed it, we let her sleep in her own urine or until she calls for mommy or daddy to dry her off at three in the morning. Ok, that only happened once, then we bought a mattress pad and a plastic liner.

Houston Hobby
While Kim, Nana and I claimed our tower constructed from suitcases, Olivia showed Hailey how to sit on top of the luggage carousel and ride from one end of the baggage claim area to the other. Olivia helped Hailey on her inaugural journey via airplane without a fight and with little guidance from the adults. Is Olivia a good teacher or does she like to control Hailey? I’m not sure, but Hailey enjoys big sister’s constant instruction, care and attention.

Thirteen suitcases teetering high on a bag-cart slightly impaired my vision. Relying on sound recognition I blindly followed our entourage through Houston Hobby, squeezing by groups of people, through entryways, corridors and elevator doors, praying for the luggage not to topple.

We made it to the car rental shuttle depot without incident, the luggage held, next time I will pack a bungee cord to secure the bags to the cart. The shuttled bus snaked through the airport’s access roads as Olivia and Hailey bounced from seat to seat. A light drizzle started coming down as the shuttle pulled up to a light blue van. I had requested a Grand Caravan with two built-in five-point-harness child restraints, which was offered at no extra charge. I opened the van’s sliding door to find a standard bench seat, thanks Budget, not to worry I came prepared and quickly procured two booster seats, one from large rolling duffel and the other from my hockey bag. Thankfully the van had latch and with a snap we were sheltered from the rain and on our way to Aunt Linda’s and Uncle Earl Lee’s.

Day I
Aunt Linda and Uncle Earl Lee live in a gated community. Their home is condo-esque, with neighboring houses tightly squeezed together. The great thing about staying with Aunt Linda and Uncle Earle Lee is that they own the house directly across the quiet cul-de-sac from their home. So, we get our own place to spread out and enjoy.

After ‘moving in’ we were able to enjoy the rest of the day. Cousin Morgan brought us lunch and she played with the kiddos for a few hours. The isolated misting had blown over and the sun came out in time for us to check out the neighborhood pool until dinner. It was a long day, no naps, we tried to get the girls in bed early, eight o’clock, however there was a bit of confusion on exactly where Olivia and Hailey were going to sleep. First we tried the loft. They weren’t comfortable up there. I moved both their twin mattresses down to the living-room where they discovered that the loft was much better. Back up the stairs I obediently followed carrying both mattresses. We planned on a short story-time which ended-up running ten books long (every book they brought with them) and then they jumped from one mattress to the other for over an hour before finally crashing out after ten.

Day II
Grandpa
This is a tough subject. What do you say about the person who calls his daughter the day before her wedding to say that he can’t make it? Someone who has two granddaughters that he has not once come to visit. I could go on with a dirty laundry list but I must refrain. I don’t know the historic details between Grandpa and Nana (Kim’s mom), I’m sure it wasn’t pretty. I try not to pry, although when Kim was pregnant with Olivia, I attempted to dig a bit; Kim and I were looking through Nana’s dusty photo albums. The early 70’s pictures of Nana are out of character. Usually fun-loving and out-going these set of pictures represent a gloomy person. I questioned Kim about one particular unsmiling photo of Nana; pregnant with Kim, Nana’s arm loosely wrapped around Kim’s dad, the only photo I’ve seen of Nana and Grandpa together. Kim’s explanation, Nana was embarrassed by her adult braces.

Our first full day in Houston we had plans with grandpa, (minus Nana). I am cordial, respectful and optimistic when we are with Kim’s father. Warning flip-flop alert: He is actually an interesting person to hang around with. He’s comical, opinionated, a conversationalist, with a hint of chauvinism. He could be the perfect drinking or golfing buddy. He and his current girlfriend Helen took us to NASA’s Johnson Space Center. It was my idea. I’ve been to Houston one too many times without seeing what was to be the vehicle of Apollo 18, the Saturn V Rocket.

Space Center Houston
Space Center Houston is the visitors’ center at JSC and has a vibe of something between a spaceport hangar / mission control / science center. We were greeted by a massive floor to ceiling at least thirty feet tall play structure. ‘Kids Space Place’ enticed Olivia and Hailey, they spent close to an hour exploring the multilevel kid sized habit trail. They stopped at an air gun trench to launch plastic balls at unknown yet shocked and awed adversaries. They tested and re-tested a robotic arm controller several dozen times, and the three-story triple-cork-screw slide was so tempting Kim had to try it.

Next we checked out “Grossology” a (possibly traveling) hands-on exhibit trumpeting all that is slimy, stinky, and yucky. An interactive jeopardy-parodied quiz show was enlightening. Plenty of nasty bug stuff to examine. The cow intestinal tracking system was a bit too much information. It was the kind of stuff that makes a great conversation base with the kiddos.

We spent another hour hopping through the half dozen galleries of space related exhibits and then our little ladies became viciously hungry. Grandpa suggested a short ride down the road to Kemah Boardwalk a seaside amusement area with a couple good places to get lunch. Everyone was on board with that, however in that instant my dream of seeing the Saturn V disintegrated. So close and denied… Insert; ‘story of my life’ here.

Kemah Boardwalk
The kiddos hurried through lunch which was not much of a break for anyone then we headed to the funfair area. Olivia and Hailey experienced their first Farris Wheel ride and it was unbelievable. Labeled ‘Century Wheel’ although I don’t think it was 100 feet tall, the scene overlooked Clear Lake Shores off Galveston Bay. Olivia, Hailey and I were the only ones who opted to ride the wheel. It stopped at the top for a moment, the basket swayed with the wind and Olivia asked “Is that the Ocean down there?” How could I tell her it wasn’t?

Pump It Up
The day was far from over. We had bummed around the boardwalk for a little longer then took Grandpa and Helen home. Cousin Morgan reserved a free, hour long, private room for us at the Pump It Up where she was employed. They climbed, slid, jumped, and jousted non-stop for the entire hour. We like the bouncy type places and even I get into the action. Cousin Mikey challenged, eluded and embarrassed me on the mushroom topped jousting platform. The day was another action packed, no nap, up till ten o’clock night. I think Kim and I were asleep before the kiddos.

Kim with Olivia and Itty Bitty BankerDay III
The Toy Donkey Whisperer(s)
Not a toy donkey, a miniature donkey, a real one. Kim’s cousin Karen owns one and a horse with a bit of land too. Our whirlwind tour of the Texas family continued with a visit to Karen’s place. Uncle Earl Lee and Cousin Morgan (Earl Lee is Morgan’s grandfather) came along with us. Olivia and Hailey have ridden on small carnival horses a couple times at local fairs so they were merely semi-excited to ride the miniature donkey. Although once we got to the stable and acquainted with the animals they livened-up.

Olivia and Hailey felt comfortable on the miniature donkey named ‘Itty Bitty Banker’ but both didn’t like being on the fully grown equine. I can’t blame them. The beast was huge and a bit ornery. I was glad that Uncle Earl Lee and Cousin Morgan were close-by to assist when the kiddos took their brief turns ‘riding’ the steed.Hailey says “Whoa” with Uncle Earl Lee Standing by.

A cool swift moving rain shower passed over stranding us in the stable for a while. Itty Bitty Banker received the brushing of its life from Olivia and Hailey. They petted, preened and fussed over the mini donkey until a break in the rain gave us time to dash back to Karen’s office where we had parked. Itty Bitty Banker tailed Olivia and Hailey almost the whole length of the field and seemed sadden by the departure of its new friends.

Day IV
Graduation
Cousin Morgan’s high school class was close to five hundred students and she was selected by her peers to lead the state anthem during the opening ceremonies. The graduation proceeded swiftly, only two hours long, which was way past the kiddos stay in one place for too long limit. But they kept themselves busy by visiting all their relatives, first Chris and his wife Glenda, jumping to cousin Rob and his wife Lori, skipping to aunt Linda and uncle Earl Lee, bouncing to cousins Sherri and Michael (Morgan’s mom and dad), plowing through to cousin Karen and her mother Ann, bounding over to Nana and sneaking up on cousin Mikey.

After the graduation we all met for lunch. The restaurant we met at was a cross between petting zoo / play ground / eatery and it was fun. After our meal we went outside to play, pet the animals and see the peacocks (Hailey’s favorite animal). As soon as we settled into a huge sandbox it started to pour down rain. The sand pit was situated under a pavilion so we weren’t getting wet, but once again, we were stranded out in the rain. Sure the restaurant was a twenty yard dash away but we were dry and the kiddos were content with the situation so I put my arm around Kim and we waited it out.

That evening Morgan and her immediate family had one thousand parties to attend. We all went our separate ways for the night. Nana went to visit some old friends. Kim, the kiddos and I met-up with Grandpa, Helen and her youngest college aged daughter at the local Chucky Cheese for an evening of instant gratification.

Day V
Party
Cousin Morgan had a Family and Friends Graduation Party the following day and it was great visiting with everyone. Michael and Sheri opened up their home, providing yummy edibles. The family congregated out in the garage reminiscing, updating and gossiping about things I can’t pen. Olivia and Hailey nursed blue frosting cup cakes all party long leaving blue kiss marks on anyone willing to receive one.

Departure
It was sad to go, especially since we had to leave the party in its prime to catch our flight home. Morgan got upset when it was time to say goodbye to her little side kicks and I couldn’t thank uncle Earl Lee and aunt Linda enough for their gracious hospitality all while Kim sabotaged our tightly scheduled itinerary by lingering several ‘one last’ goodbyes to everyone.

Where was Nana? She stayed in bed sick at aunt Linda’s that day. Possibly a nasty stomach virus, she flew home the next day and didn’t feel well for a week after.

Vacation Termination
The ride to the airport rental car return depot was rainy and somber. The airport was surprisingly crowded but the kiddos didn’t act antsy. Olivia reminded Hailey to touch the outside of the plane near the entry hatch for good luck as we boarded. The typically bumpy ride back home from Houston was smooth.

Bubie (my mom) picked us up from the airport and was surprised by Nana’s absence. We were home and unpacked within an hour of touchdown. Olivia and Hailey were beat-up, speaking in tongues, spastically jabbing fists and feet at anything within a two foot radius, struggling to keep moving. No nap and insufficient sleep for five days, it was like watching the terminator in its final hour.

Our Little Secret
Is this a coincidence; our last three trips to Texas Kim has been (and currently is) pregnant? Kim and I sat on this secret the entire trip. Kim did an ept test the day before we left, she was one week late. A faded blue line appeared. She called her doctor to make an appointment which obviously she couldn’t see him until after our trip so we decided not to tell anyone. Besides, we like secrets.

Night Terror(s)

Postponing sleep is one of Olivia’s and Hailey’s specialties. Their creative energy is abundant in finding new ways to evade falling asleep and when they persist with self induced insomnia Kim and I get frazzled, occasionally making rash decisions, unwilling to give up the one hour a day we claim as are own.

 

Olivia used to be in the habit of stretching (a sometimes pseudo or sometimes actual need to go) after-hours potty visit into a ten minute book perusal. During one of these incidents, spurred by fatigue I became annoyed, establishing a spontaneous decree with no forewarning, “I am officially banning books while on the toilet after bed time!” Olivia was confused. “No books!” I repeated. She cried for a good fifteen minutes at the sudden uncompromising rule modification. Kim glared the ‘nice going Homer’ look as she soothed Olivia but took my side, agreeing with the change, “Sorry honey, daddy said no.”

 

Olivia excessively relies on the bathroom excuse, usually two visits a night after being tucked-in. She also likes to stay up ‘reading’ scanning as many as ten books and a few times has fallen asleep with a paperback covering her face. Bathroom and books are moderately permissible. Her creativity upholds near the twilight of sleep, she will snoozily call on me or Kim with a governors-plea, “Close my closet door all the way,” even if it is closed. Or “There is a fly in here,” there is no fly. Or “You forgot your toy brain,” by that time we need a real one. She dreams-up something new almost every evening. What she really wants is one more reassuring kiss before entering the scary realm of night terrors. Nearly every night she will violently thrash and scream in the depths of slumber, which is bewildering and disheartening for me and Kim. No wonder she balks sleep.

 

Every so often Kim and I blurrily see through the hazy frustration of Olivia’s sleep-strife to find comic relief and emotional buoyancy. Recently, in the midst of a post-been-put-to-bed toilet pardon, while glancing up through the bathroom blinds, she noticed a three-quarter moon and proclaimed, “Daddy the moon is broken.” Grumpy and tired I couldn’t help but laugh and then started to explain that the moon has different phases. But she stopped my explanation short with her newest favorite phrase, “we’ll talk about that later daddy.” Her verbal abilities and emotional uninhibitedness amaze and sappily harness me. A few nights ago, after story-time on her way to bed she exclaimed, “You’re the best daddy.” Kim gushed. My head inflated to the size of a hot-air balloon. That comment was worth more than any pay check I have ever received. Proactive flattery is what I was thinking an hour later as she still would not fall asleep calling for me to obtain her Ariel wrist-band-compact-mirror-lip-gloss toy. Thanks to Kim’s archetypical modeling, Olivia will look good when facing her sleep-demons.

 

While I’m on the subject of sleep-demons; Hailey has been testing her limits with Kim and me for the past couple weeks. It started innocently, right after being put to bed she would shed her nighty and diaper then toss them out of the crib along with anything else that wasn’t nailed down, calling for mommy or daddy to come pickup her blankey, all her stuffed toys and re-dress her. After several nights, she progressed from disrobing and tossing one time, to three or four times, this new game quickly became vexatious. I decided to let her remain naked and have her cry-it-out, upping the stakes. Kim was at odds with this decision for good reason. Hailey loves a new challenge and countered with urinating in her crib. So then the game became Kim or I having to dress her and change the crib sheets, which was much to Hailey’s delight being that she was able to get out of her crib for a few extra minutes and watch mommy or daddy work on getting her bed cleaned-up. Great idea dad. In one week she went from playfully undressing to malevolently whizzing all over the place. Once or twice we ran out of clean linens, she went through four sets of sheets and had to sleep without anything but a wet cover, eventually falling asleep naked in a pool of her own urine.

 

The problem reached a boiling-point this week during our ‘daddy day’ siesta. Hailey had stripped and was shouting, “dah…diee!” from her crib for over an hour, then she became eerily quiet. My ‘dadar’ alarmed me and just as I was about to enter her room she hollered, “daddy I poo-poo!” I opened her door and she was hopping up and down in her crib, little poo-poo nuggets flying everywhere. The language that followed was of the ‘R’ rated variety. I hooked her underarm which was the only clean part of her body, yanked her from the crib, tossed her into the bath tub and dropped the soap bar in her lap. “Clean yourself up!” Then I went to disinfect her room, probably a good thing too, that gave me time to cool down and strategize. I concocted a plan that involved Hockey tape. After her cleansing, I wrapped plastic tape around her diaper, the same adhesive I use to lash my equipment to my body. It didn’t take the little escapist long to wiggle out of that continuing to elude nap-time and seemingly mock me, “dah…diee!” So I persisted, wrapping the tape around her shirt and nighty pants. That didn’t work either, she was naked within minutes. Defeated, I retreated to bed, covering my ears with pillows attempting to drown out her victory cry, “dah…diee!” She did eventually take a short snoozer, three hours after the start of nap-time.

 

I had lost that battle but the war was not over. I had a new plan. I called Kim on her way home from work requesting she stop and buy diaper-pins. That night, (last night) Kim pinned Hailey’s nighty shirt to her pants, six pins, it looked like a Houdini stunt in the making. So far the tactic appears to be working and for the past two nights she has fallen asleep, clothes pinned together, without a fuss. Kim and I have won back our hour, for now.

Originally posted on BabyCenter.com 10/19/06

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