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Life In the Fast Lane

As Madeleine grows more and more independent (against my wishes, I need not add) we’ve been venturing further and further afar from home base for gradually longer periods of time.  I mean, we’ve flown with her several times and such, but for the most part we’ve kept to our routine whenever possible and tried to fit our life and the attendant errands around her naps and feedings.  It seemed simpler that way, and her daily happiness level has a direct relation to how predictable and “normal” her day is.  And of course, once you throw in the whole solid food thing, the effort feels almost Sisyphean; between nursing time, solids time, and nap time (including the cranky-but-not-ready-to-go-down pre-nap time), you have these little windows of about seven minutes where she’s in a good mood and ready for the unexpected.  It almost doesn’t seem worth it.
Sometimes, though, you’ve got no choice, so you just pack well, fasten your seatbelt, and hope for the best.

Recently, we had a string of errands that had to get done and no other time to do them, and we knew it was time to test the waters and see how far asea we could safely drift.  I knew we’d be gone all day, so I packed solids for breakfast and lunch in my baby cubes, threw in her favorite bib and a change of clothes (ok, three- I’m a pragmatist about babies and solid food in strange environments) and said a quick prayer.  Oh, yeah, and brought a couple pieces of gear.  And when I say a couple, of course I mean 50.  I knew Maddie would be in her car seat/stroller for the rest of the day and that she’d tire of it rather quickly, so I planned a series of diversions to be brought out at strategic moments.  I even hid them from her as we loaded them in the car, so she’d be excited when she saw them.
Yeah, I wish I was kidding.
At any rate, we hit the road at 8 a.m.  First stop was church, which is kind of cheating since she knows the place and many of the people.  A quick breakfast of pears and oatmeal in the nursery, and we went in for the service.  Madeleine still spends most of the service in the baby Bjorn, which is great since it’s possible for her to nap there.  Sure enough, at 11 a.m. she konked out and dozed for her first nap of the day.
So far, so good!  A quick nursing and we’re back on the road, heading to Buy Buy Baby.  Normally, I’d be strolling through the store in 7th heaven, but today we’re on a schedule so it’s in and out for some necessaries (one exchange, and a pick up of one of those mesh baby feeders – I’ll let you know how they work) in record time.  We’re doing well, but the big test is still ahead.  It’s time to go to Ikea.
My husband’s been in sore need of a new desk, and Ikea fits our price-range so we’ve been planning the trip for a while.  Unfortunately, Ikea parts don’t fit into our little sedan so we’ve had to borrow a friend’s mini-van.  I cannot tell you how unbelievably suburban and domestic I felt, driving down the highway to Long Island in a mini-van with Brian in the front seat and Maddie and me in the back, having a friendly game of tug-of-war with a spoonful of prunes.  She good-naturedly accepted her loss, finished the bowl and settled down for nap #2.  Yes!  Right on schedule!  Again, it feels like cheating a bit since the car’s practically an automatic nap-inducer, but I’m not proud.  I’ll take it.
A few words on Ikea at this point – some of my girlfriends swear by this place.  They’ve got the playroom for kids and are incredibly baby-friendly, with great changing rooms, nursing rooms, and even a station in their cafeteria for baby-food warming.  Who does that??  The best part for my girlfriend Abby, though, is the food: a 99 cent breakfast every day means you can bring your restless 2-year-old in on a rainy Saturday morning and everyone has a great time for under five bucks.
Unfortunately, Maddie’s too young to appreciate this and we’re entering a monster of over-stimulation.  Nervous?  You bet.  But what else can you do?  We kept her in the car-seat stroller so we could pull the bonnet down and keep her facing us.  That didn’t completely drown out the sensory assault, but it was the best we came up with.
Let me tell you something – my daughter handled it like a baby born to shop.  Noisy showrooms?  She sang to herself to drown out the cacophony.  Crowded aisles?  Removing her boot and triumphantly waving it around for several minutes kept her mind off the pulsating, swerving crowd.  We didn’t even have to bring out the secret weapon I had stashed in her under-basket – Krinkle Katy.  Though I will say that Piggy made more than one appearance and was probably the biggest source of anxiety for me of the whole trip.  Piggy would work for a few minutes before Maddie would tire of him, so Brian would sensibly put Piggy back in the diaper bag to “surprise” Maddie with later.  I’d look over in the stroller and see no Piggy and have a heart attack.  NO PIGGY!!  I’d be one step away from grabbing a store intercom and putting out a lost-Piggy APB when Brian would notice my distress (I think the frantic tearing through Madeleine’s stroller blanket was his clue) and fill me in on Piggy’s whereabouts.  This happened around three times.  Good times, they were.
By the time we fought our way through the store and the cash register and loaded the van,

Brian and I were exhausted.  Madeleine, on the other hand, had once again removed her shoe and was crowing triumphantly.  We strapped her back into the minivan where she contentedly fell asleep for the drive home.  I was so proud of my daughter, holding up under such stressful conditions.  I marvel at how much she's grown, knowing that putting her through that much even two months ago would have resulted in a much different scene, one that involved wailing (on her part) and gnashing of teeth (mine.)

At home, unloaded and exhausted, Brian and I crashed on the couch.  Madeleine, fresh as a daisy from her nap and looking forward to dinner with anticipation, smiled at us as if to say, “Great!  You’re here!  Who wants to play?”


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