Athena is now 8 months old, and her world has been topsy turvy all month long! Luckily, we hit the baby lottery, and rather than being totally upset about this, she's rolled with every curve, proving once again that we got the baby that was meant for us. When last we left our heroes, they were packing for the big vacation. Athena's passport arrived with plenty of time to spare and we were once again familiar with the concept that babies require a lot of stuff. I used to be the sort of traveller that grabbed a carry-on to go somewhere for a week. Those days are gone.
Our vacation departed on Labor Day, which was awesome because it meant we got to go to Conquest and play games AND we got to meet up with my cousin Wendy and her beau for lunch on our way to the boat. At Conquest, we thought maybe it would be nice to play a game together, but we never quite managed it. Instead, Erik got to play a couple of games, and I made it into the Saturday night game. During the swap over periods, Athena got to charm the socks off of all the gamers.
|Athena being cute at Conquest|
|The Saturday night game|
While Erik was playing, we had mostly finished packing, so I went and ran a few last minute errands, and took Athena with me. She is a girl who likes to go see new things, so she seemed to enjoy every minute of it. One of the errands was to go pick up Greenies for the cats, so off to Petsmart. I figured Athena would like to see the kitties up for adoption and the dogs inevitably walking around the store with their people. What I didn't think of was doggie daycare. Doggie daycare caused Athena so much joy that I thought she might actually explode.
The next day, I sent Erik off to the morning game and decided that we should go see the Children's Discovery Museum. Turns out, their offerings for her size are pretty small, but she had a great time watching the other babies, watching the ball drop, playing in the splash zone, and playing in the mirror box. I unfortunately forgot my phone, so no pictures of that.
We finished our packing and hit the hay for our morning flight up to Seattle.
There was then a minor fiasco with United Airlines where they had sent me a confirmation listing checked bags as having no cost, but where they wanted to charge us $50 at the airport. I rolled away for a walk with the baby while Erik spoke to the staffer, the supervisor, then the manager. When I came back during that conversation, I walked into a very tense situation where she was saying there wasn't anything we could do but pay the fees and dispute it later. Usually I'm the one who gets steamed in these bad customer service interactions, but Erik was pissed. Apparently, when he tried to be generous and say, "I'm sorry they've tied your hands..." she responded with, "No, I like it that way. It makes my job easier." He has declared that we'll never fly United again. (After submitting a dispute with them, which they haven't responded to for over 2 weeks, and then calling my credit card company to dispute the charges, I really tend to agree. It's like dealing with a shady web store that charges you for something you didn't order. The big difference is that the airlines are "too big to fail" so they've got a sweetheart deal with the credit card companies so that Chase can't actually file a dispute with them. They dispute desk offered me a $25 courtesy credit. I filed a follow-up complaint with United. They truly reek of evil. We just bought our Christmas plane tickets on Jet Blue even though United had a cheaper flight.)
When we arrived in Seattle, we had the polar opposite experience from Disney. Arriving in baggage claim, we immediately spotted a gent in a puffy white Mickey glove. We walked up and asked what we were supposed to do. He directed us to our baggage carousel, then said to find him again when we had our bags. Other Disney employees came up and entertained Athena while we waited for bags. In a few short minutes, we were on our way. We'd actually planned to get Disney ground transportation to the boat, but then I realized that it was actually Labor Day and I should call Wendy. We managed to catch up with her and Josh for lunch, but since we'd planned transportation, we were able to divest ourselves of our luggage and have it magically show up at our stateroom door. We wish Disney wanted to run an airline. We'd be so there.
Lunch with Wendy was a delight. It's always a joy to get to see her. We went to an Indian place out in Ravenna, the headed across town to the boat. We were some of the last to board with our 2:30 - 3 p.m. check in time, and they were rapidly dismantling the check in center behind us as this was the last sailing out of Seattle. We immediately went to adjust our Palo reservation and our Port Excursions. Both got settled just the way we wanted in a few short minutes. We found our stateroom and started getting settled in. There was a bottle of champagne chilling, a gift from Erik's mom. Champagne and unpacking goes well together as it turns out. While I pumped, Erik and Athena headed up to Flounder's Reef. Our favorite people on the ship fast became Brodie, Kevin, Emma and Chris, who spent the first few minutes arguing about who got to hold the super cute baby. We ended up leaving Athena with them for an hour so that we could relax with a cocktail and a hand of cards before dinner. With the Wave phones on the boat, they could call us any time if they needed us. Drop-in $6 an hour babysitting is the best thing ever.
We figured we'd often drop Athena off at dinner time since we rarely get to enjoy dinner without wrangling the baby, but she did so well at the table in their compact little high chair that we decided we'd likely bring her with us to dinner most nights. Our table-mates also had an 11-month old baby boy, so we were a good match.
The second evening was formal night. We got our family photo taken with the captain and Athena refrained from spitting up on both my dress and Erik's tux. Win!
|Family portrait with the ship's captain|
|After dinner in our stateroom|
On the third day, we cruised up Tracy Arm to the South Sawyer glacier. It was a lovely journey, and we got to stop for photos with Goofy on the way.
|Photos with Goofy|
|Approaching Sawyer Glacier|
At dinner that evening, we had reservations at Palo, the adults-only restaurant. Athena enjoyed her evening in Flounder's Reef while we sort of celebrated our anniversary. Since our first Disney Cruise was our honeymoon just before our wedding, this was sort of our anniversary trip just before our anniversary.
|Dessert at Palo|
We spent the day in Skagway mostly without Athena. First we headed up the White Pass railway and biked back down. Then we headed back to the boat to pump and have lunch and decide whether or not to take Athena to a glacier via helicopter. At lunch, she was a perfect little angel and we made friends with the couple at the table next to us, who pronounced her the most well-behaved baby ever. We opted to let her stay on board and headed out to find out we were sharing the tour with our companions from lunch. Let's sum this up with helicopters are cool and glaciers are truly bizarre.
|Before getting in the helicopter|
|On the Mead glacier|
|Strolling on the glacier with our guide Rachel|
|A glacial moulin|
|Our ship from the helicopter|
Afterwards, our lunch companions convinced us to join them at the local brothel for a drink. We got drinks, then took the $5 for 15 minutes tour of the brothel.
|The original red light|
|In one of the cribs|
The next day we went whale watching in Juneau. Athena had a grand time. It was raining, so we headed back to the ship and had a leisurely afternoon on board. In the evening, they usually have a Pirate Party on deck, but it was moved to the atrium because of the weather. We brought our pirate togs and dressed for the occasion. Dinner was lovely, and afterwards we went and joined the party. Athena became the belle of the ball, riding on Daddy's shoulders while we danced. She had the most ridiculous grin on her face. Before long, everyone on our side of the party was watching her rather than the entertainers. There she was, our little night owl, ready to party into the night, happy as could be.
|Toddler playtime in the lounge|
|Pirate Party Dinner Photo|
|A break to breathe during the party (taken by a Brit couple who thought Athena was the cutest thing ever).|
The next day was Ketchikan. We had booked our tour separately, so we went to find our little van to ride up to the rainforest tour, and drove up and rejoined the Disney group we passed as we exited the ship. We tromped through a nice trail in the woods, watching the bears tank up on addled salmon. One guest was terrified of the bears across the river, but with the end of salmon spawning season, the bears couldn't be bothered with the annoying humans across the river. They were eating salmon with both hands, scooping up fish half-way on their way to dead and gnoshing on tasty brains (like big, furry zombies). We headed down the trail to see the rescued reindeer, which Athena thought was as good as doggie daycare. The tour culminated with a look at a rescued bald eagle and a great horned owl and Wayne Hewson carving a totem pole. We hopped in our little van and headed back to town while the rest of the tour got on the big bus to head back. Here we made a minor miscalculation in our journey - we didn't stop to change Athena's diaper. By the end of the day, we were saying over and over again: if I need to pee, then the baby already has. So, we walked around the Discovery Center and headed out to stroll down Creek Street. This was about when we thought, "Hmm, it's been a while since we changed the baby's diaper. Let's find a spot to do that." Well, finding a spot took another 15 minutes or so, which was too long. Another mighty blast, and she leaked all over her Baby Bjorn. D'oh! But a quick park bench changing into a new outfit and diaper, and all was well. We headed back to the boat, grabbed some lunch, and were ready to go out again. Before leaving, we changed her again since she'd spit up a bit of lunch on her current outfit. Then we took a nice walking tour of Ketchikan and just as we were headed back to the ship, the wee miss had a volcano of poop erupt out of her diaper. So, we grabbed the same park bench, changed her top to bottom again, and headed back to the boat.
And this, this was the moment above all when we really appreciated Flounder's Reef. We stopped by, having been through four costume changes for the day, and asked if they could watch her for an hour. No problem, they say, and Erik and I retire to the Cadillac Lounge for a cocktail before dinner. It was just what we needed, and turned a potentially exhausting and stressful day to one of the best of our vacation.
The boat steamed back to Vancouver and we enjoyed the last day at sea before having to go deal with United Airlines again. We went to our character breakfast and got a bunch of photos with the characters. Athena was fascinated with them, at a certain distance. When they got in her face, it was too much. With her on one side of me and the character on the other, it was just right.
|Very curious about Chip |
|A little suspicious of Dale|
|Excited to see Goofy!|
|Napkins folded into hats by our waiter for our photo with Mickey |
|Fun times with Pluto|
|So curious about Minnie! |
We took the Disney coach back to the airport, and sure enough, United charged us bag fees on the way back too, but the bigger problem was that they use these automated check-in kiosks which print your boarding passes, but the stickers have to be printed at the counter and handed to you. In Vancouver, you then take your stickered bag down the hall to drop it off. While in theory, this should be a quick process, save that the person who gives you a sticker is also the person who deals with any problems with your flight. We arrived with a dozen or so folks in line, and we ended up in a weird little line with just two people ahead of us. Then things went sideways. After helping a little Scottish lady navigate the self-check-in process, and letting one woman ahead of us who was panicking about being late for her flight, the process had ground to a halt. All four clerks were dealing with a canceled flight and the line had burst out the end of the queue. The clerk at our station went to walk down to another airline to talk to someone about getting on their flight. The little Scottish lady came back because they'd put someone else's tag on her bag. No one else came out to help. Forty minutes later, the baggage handler had grabbed a bunch of the stickers and was starting to hand them out. We chased down the baggage guy, who'd ignored us in our weird separated line, and finally got our tags. Have we mentioned we'll never fly United again? Yeah. Sigh.
We came home, but really didn't fully settle back to reality right away. Before we'd planned our vacation, Kev and Rachel had planned a trip to his uncle's place in Tahoe. If we managed to pick a weekend where it went unrented, we could stay for the cost of the cleaning fee. So, I went to work Wednesday Thursday, and Friday, but Friday night we headed up the mountain to Tahoe. Erik also found out that he needed to attend new faculty orientation on Wednesday and Thursday that week, so suddenly we needed child care earlier than we'd planned. A few calls and we managed to get Athena into her planned daycare place for four days, two for orientation, and two the following week for meetings and such, before she officially starts on October 1st. The first day seemed fine when I dropped her off, but she had a pretty rough day. She wouldn't eat her solids and I think the nipple got clogged on her bottle, so she ate about half her normal amount of milk. She was really upset and cried when Daddy arrived. The next day when I brought her back, she bawled when I went to leave, and had another fairly rough day, though did at least eat successfully, so a little better. I was having big doubts about this being a good place for her. On the Disney Wonder, she'd always been eager to see the staff at Flounder's Reef, giving them big hugs when we handed her over, never crying when we left or returned. This was very very different. Shockingly different. We're going to play it by ear for a bit, but we may have to reconsider our planned daycare provider. We shall see.
But then we were off to Tahoe. Well, we were off to a sort of fantasy version of Tahoe. See, this house, they're hoping to sell it for $7 million. It has its own movie theater. So... yeah.
|Athena playing with her yellow shaky ball|
|Athena in the Man Cave|
|Chillin' in the Man Cave|
|View from the deck|
|View from the loft|
A long, leisurely weekend of good food, fun movies, board games, and baby chasing commenced. And it was good. The only downside was that Athena and I had caught a cold in the intervening week, and I was still suffering most of the weekend.
The other big thing that happened this month was that Athena is getting supplemental breast milk from a friend with oversupply. She posted on Facebook that she was about to just dump some since her older daughter was uninterested in drinking it. The thought of breast milk going down the drain signaled a sort of slow motion, movie-style "Nooooooooooooooo!" from me. I fight and fight to supply half of what Athena needs, getting up every night at 3 or 4 a.m. to pump so that my supply doesn't decrease, taking Fenugreek to keep my supply up, pumping six times a day, and generally being driven a bit insane by the process. I have pumped in a bizarre array of situations - while driving, while going through a drive-through, while on a plane, while pumping gas, while eating dinner, while washing dishes, while trying to feed the baby from a bottle, while hiding in the car at a wedding, in front of friends while we have dinner together, and more. Really, it's constant pressure to figure out where I'm going to pump and how I'm going to fit it in every 3-4 hours. Lori was happy to let me use her excess, so I'm more than happy to drive across to Fremont to pick it up every 10 days or so. It's so incredibly awesome. I decided I could give up the overnight pump, and have now had a few weeks of sleeping through the night. The weird side effect in this case though is that Athena kicked that cold in about 4 days. I remained the queen of sniffles for far longer.
Athena had two more days at daycare the following week. I think they're starting to learn her cues and her routine, and she seemed happier. When I dropped her off Thursday, she started to fuss again, so I scooped her up and nursed her for a few minutes. Like most people, she's far more likely to cope with the world with a full belly. Before long, the other babies and all the toys were more interesting than my boob. I handed her over to the staff and she was entranced with playing with the other babies. The next day, we tried that again and it seemed to work relatively well the second time too. I'll just have to plan to have a half-hour there to do things like that for now. Meanwhile, they invite parents to join their Facebook group for the room and post pictures of them during the day.
|Athena sitting in Pam's lap|
|Athena at lunchtime|
On Friday, Athena was at daycare and I was at work for the shuttle flyover. While everyone in my office piled out and up to the top of the parking garage, the Early Horizon's staff took the kids out to see it too.
|IT Services staff go up to see the shuttle|
|From my iPhone camera|
|Meanwhile, at Athena's daycare|
|They saw it too!|
We spent Saturday working on the garage, the never-ending project of doom. Okay, it's actually almost done. We primed the whole thing so it's ready for paint. Then Cyrus, Athena, and Lorelei came by and helped us put up trim in the evening. Then, after some flight delays, Erik went to pick up his mom at the airport. She came out to visit for Erik's first week of teaching.
Having Karen visit is a joy. Not only have I got a great husband, but he came with a fabulous mother-in-law. She is happy and energetic and cheerfully pulls our house into functional order and loves spending hours and hours with Athena. On Sunday morning, we all went out to breakfast at La Pinata. They serve a fantastic brunch, complete with bottomless mimosas. After that, we took Karen out to look at a few open houses with us since one we looked at previously had dropped in price by $100k, creeping a little closer to our price range. We figured it was worth having another look to see if it was still as good as we remembered. For better or worse, it is, and we may see what we can scrape together to make an offer. We can't stay in our current house because I bought it back when the local schools were not something I considered. Sometime in the next four years or so, we have to move. And prices are as low as they'll get right about now, plus interest rates are also insanely low, so though it's a stretch right now, it's a good time to buy, so maybe. Maybe. Maybe. We'll see.
Erik's classes started Tuesday. We thought it might be fun to hit the ceili party on Tuesday night, so Karen and Athena piled in the car with me and we shuttled up to work (now with bonus carpool lane!). Karen got a look at what my commute is like, and agreed that perhaps buying closer to work would be worthwhile. During the week, I'd be at work, and I'd get adorable baby photos of Athena playing at home from her Gigi Karen.
|Oooh. Fun new toy!|
We had to send Karen home to Cape Cod last night. After horrible traffic to get home, we had a very quick dinner, then bundled her into the car and rushed off to the airport. Many hugs and goodbyes were had, and just as we were stepping back, Athena spit up all over me. Karen and I looked down, looked at each other, and burst out laughing. She said, "Sometimes it's good to be the grandma! Bye-bye!"
We woke up this morning, and I fed the baby while Erik got ready for work. I got her into her outfit for the day while Erik restocked her diaper bag and put together lunches for us. It looks like we're going to be able to do this thing, daunting as it is.
Next up: Baby's first Halloween. Can't wait!!!