Well, I didn't intend to drop off the face of the earth for a week--I swear, I packed up my computer and brought it with us, but The Great Tour of the Midwest left little time for, well, anything. I'm really not sure where all that time went (besides the twenty-some hours we spent in the car) but here is a recap of sorts...
We drove from St. Louis to David's dad's house, visited with them for a few hours, then continued to my parent's house on Sunday (the day before Christmas Eve). We left there on Christmas day to drive to the middle of Kansas and spend two nights with David's family, then drove back to my hometown to celebrate my Papa's 80th birthday and have another Christmas with my extended family on my dad's side, then drove home through Kansas City so we could see my BFF and her daughter (who turned one on Saturday).
The whole thing was do-able only because Zuzu was an amazing traveller. The baby who only catnaps at home will sleep for HOURS in the car. She was incredible. Even if she'd wake up in her car seat, she'd just play with her little car seat hanging toys and coo to herself. Adorable. She was so good that I wished we'd put the Snuza monitor on her in the car because I couldn't believe how quiet and content she was.
In fact, the only time she got fussy in the car was when my brother was in the back seat with her and we were driving the few minutes from my parents' house to my aunt's house for Papa's birthday party. Zuzu had a total meltdown and screamed in the car all the way there and all the home. She was fine in between, so we can only surmise that she does not like sharing the back seat with Uncle Bubs.
As for Christmas (or all the Christmases)... It was good--not perfect, but good. We kept things pretty low-key, which was exactly what I needed. There was lots of eating (FYI: peanut clusters are totally acceptable breakfast food, because peanuts = protein). There was some drinking (mimosas on Christmas morning). There was plenty of baby-admiring (Zuzu has three sets of grandparents, one set of great-grandparents, and two more great-grandmas, plus many great-aunts and uncles and cousins).
There were some challenges. David was in possibly the most foul mood of his life the weekend before we headed out of town and it was all I could do to not escalate our bickering into a full-scale shout fest. Of course he apologized later and said he was entirely out of sorts (intolerably, so, I would add). We talked about how some of that probably had to do with jumping back into our typical holiday routine of driving all over the midwest (which has felt stressful in year's past, but actually was quite tolerable this year--maybe because our expectations were so low?) and how a lot of it was grief resurfacing. Christmas is so tightly mixed up with aching for Eliza, even now.
We attended the early Christmas Eve service at my parents' church and sat directly in front of a two year old girl. Because of course we would do that. And Zuzu beamed at that little girl throughout the service because of course she did. Zuzu has two cousins who are close to the age Eliza should be now, and it's still hard for me sometimes, when I think about the missing little girl who should be there playing with them.
Looking back, I wish we would have done some little ritual in honor of Eliza, like a candle lighting, but in the moment, everything felt pretty much okay, which I think is the most we could have hoped for this year. Zuzu of course brought us so much joy, and I can't tell you how often David or I would look at her sleeping in the back seat and say to each other, "God, I love that baby." (Seriously, it was like every 15 minutes one of us would say that.)
We'd brought the pack & play for Zuzu to sleep in, instead of her rock & play bassinet sleeper. Let's just say the transition did not go well... Zuzu wanted nothing to do with the pack & play and slept like a baby (haha) in our bed.
We decided that Christmas break was not the time for worrying about bad habits--we were just going to do whatever it took to get through the Midwest Tour with our sanity intact. So we did some co-sleeping, I breastfed on demand and did some comfort nursing, we re-introduced the pacifier (with success!), and we even left the baby with Grammy one afternoon to go watch Lincoln (which was a fantastic movie and made both of us tear up when Lincoln and his wife talked about their grief after losing their son Willie).
OH! I forgot to mention that our washing machine broke the day before we left home. Of course I had loads of laundry that I'd planned to do that day before packing. Of course that laundry included dirty cloth diapers. EEEEWWWWWW.
My brother had stopped here and spent the night to break up his drive from Pittsburgh, so after a frantic phone call to my mom, we ended up packing up his truck with the diaper pail and a good portion of our dirty clothes to take to my parents'. It was kind of like college--taking laundry home to was--except with poopy diapers.
We had planned to cloth diaper over break just because we didn't want to deal with disposables for an entire week. We'd convinced ourselves this was totally doable, as we'd be staying at our parents' homes and they have washers and dryers and it would be just like home, right? I think I also wanted to show off how EASY it is to cloth diaper.
Ugh. No. Next time we will be buying dispoables for the week! David basically took over the diaper laundry, which is the only way anything got done. I felt like I didn't even have time to think about it and it was such a pain in the butt. Trying to do daily loads of dirty diapers at someone else's house while your whole routine is completely off is just super inconvenient.
The lack of routine was definitely challenging--it got to the point that Zuzu just went to bed whenever we did. Which was sometimes 9pm and sometimes 11pm. Sometimes she had a bath before bed, sometimes she showered with me in the morning. Fortunately she's a pretty easy going and adaptable baby--I think she handled the shifting schedule better than I did.
We did get to see lots of family, some of whom were meeting Zuzu for the very first time. I only cried a couple of times when the sadness of missing Eliza really got to me. We got many nice gifts--Zuzu especially--and had some good laughs. (My brother didn't buy a gift for Zuzu because "she wouldn't remember it anyway." He also told my mom that she should "update" one of Zuzu's newborn pictures that she has framed in the dining room because Zuzu is "much cuter now.") My Nana always gets worked up when playing dominos with her grandchildren and she called someone an "idiot" and then told David she should "break his neck" for playing his domino where she had intended to play hers. Never a dull moment!
My dad's side of the family did a homemade gift exchange, which actually turned out great. We drew names (but they weren't secret) and had a year to plan our gifts. There was quite a variety--everything from hand-tooled leather wallets, to canned vegetables, to paper crafts, to Christmas tree skirts, to pillow covers, to snowmen built from golf balls, to framed photos. Oh, and my brother made a gift card holder by gluing macaroni to it, pre-school style. (He included a gift card as well.) It made for a fun and different kind of Christmas exchange, and I think it will become a family tradition.
Our days were mostly filled with visiting people and running to Target and Wal-Mart and going out to lunch and playing games and watching movies (OMG my brother rented the movie Ted to watch with my parents) and I spent an afternoon getting manicures with my cousins. So there were lots of good things and I managed to enjoy Christmas this year, even with the ever-present ache for Eliza. It helped a lot to remind myself that things didn't have to be perfect to be good.
We are home now, watching it snow, and the project for the day is FIXING THE WASHING MACHINE. Wish us luck because we (and our cloth diapers) definitely need it.