Saturday, December 28, 2013

Red-eyed revelry

Drinks @ The Mark Hotel  |  Red-eyed revelry on afeathery*nest  |

Just like Thanksgivings past, I have no idea how my parents hosted Christmas meals year in and year out. We are utterly exhausted after babysitting and then Christmas Eve and Christmas Day festivities. So much so that we took our Anniversary a little easy: a long, much needed walk in the crisp air of Central Park with potent cocktails afterward at The Mark Hotel.

Aside from my own little tantrum late on Christmas Eve night, when we still had a few more hours of hosting to go and my lack of sleep was getting to me, it all went quite nicely. We ended up skipping the broccoli and my chocolate almond torte on our proposed menu, as babysitting took more time than I thought. Did you know babies eat every few hours? And every feeding comes with a proper burping and cuddling and change, meaning that each go-round takes about an hour and a half, too? Luckily he's fantastically cute and coo-y and the sweetest little thing ever. Much more worthy of our time than silly broccoli or desserts.

+ + +

On the evening of the 23rd, my brother and his wife checked into their Soho hotel and then headed downtown to our apartment, laden down with all the baby's accoutrements. After a quick primer on his likes and dislikes and schedules, we shooed them out to their fancy steak dinner and settled in for our first night with our nephew/godson.

R did a little prep for dinner and then set himself up in one corner of the couch to watch a RAI news program on his computer. I was snuggled into the other corner, my legs in a quasi-yoga-half-sparrow-'ish position, with the baby resting his head on my hipbone and cradled in my lap while I knitted. Every little while he'd make the cutest mewling sound and we'd both stop what we were doing to fawn over his milky cuteness. After an hour and a half of this we smugly said to each other, "Pffft, this baby thing is easy."

Cut to an hour later, near midnight, when we were (nay, I was) fretting over what to do since he had slept right through his feeding. Do we wake him up? Wait it out? Go to sleep and hope his cries will wake us up? While I ran through all the options and debated messaging my brother and mom, the baby woke right up and began cawing for something to fill his round little belly.

Amazingly, R was a complete natural with the baby. While I became quite frantic and anxious ahead of that first feeding—as in, rushing around and slipping and sliding across the floor in an effort to hurry the milk heating process while gathering the changing supplies and trying to quiet the baby—R told me to relax, then took the baby and gently laid his huge hand on his tummy and the baby stilled and looked up at him wide-eyed. It was a scene heart-melting-enough to make me fall in love with him all over again.

We managed the first feeding just fine, burped him, changed his diaper (whew, just wet), swaddled him up and laid him in his travel bassinet.  Then we tiptoed to bed and fell in just after be awoken promptly at 2AM for his second feeding. R and I both sprang up at the first squawk. R was on comforting duty, while I went for the milk and the heating pan. Back to bed a little after 2:30AM, and up again at 5, and then at 7.

For the 7AM feeding I closed the door behind me when I jumped up, so R could sleep in, since he still had quite a bit of cooking to do for dinner. Of course that's the feeding that took an hour and involved a VERY dirty diaper, which required me to create a fort of sorts to keep the baby immobile on the couch while I ran (again) for wipes galore to stop the fountain of goo emanating from him.

By morning, we were glad my mom was planning to come by in the afternoon. Our first night waking up every 2-3 hours had made us lethargic and red-eyed. We even brought the baby into bed with us after his 9AM feeding so we could at least get some semblance of rest for a few hours before we got up out of bed to start our Christmas Eve morning.

First to-do once we were upright again: lighting candles. Second? Turning on some Handel hymns. Third? Brewing butter tea for me, espresso for R, and warming up a slice of my satsuma-polenta-almond cake.

Christmas Eve breakfast: polenta-almond-orange cake  |  Red-eyed revelry on afeathery*nest  |

After a little sustenance, I retired to the couch to admire the baby some more, while R started cooking. Once my mom arrived, I began setting the table and helping finish up all the dishes in the kitchen with R. We snuck in a quick nap in the afternoon, everyone prostrate on our bed and then began dressing for dinner.

By 6PM everyone was here and hungry, so we sat down to dinner together. But first, another tradition I forgot to mention: every year my mom places one present at each place setting. For the adults it was usually chocolate or some sweet, for my brother and I, it was always an ornament that had something to do with our year (like, a golden retriever the year I got one). This way, by the time we left home we each had our own set of ornaments to decorate our trees with. I always loved this ritual. This year, though, the only one to get an ornament was the baby, who received a darling Snoopy one (my brother's favorite).

Around 9PM we had a drink and I started cleaning up—also known as: the arrival of my tantrum. R came to quiet me down and help, since I was feeling quite overwhelmed and our falling-apart-kitchen wasn't making the process any easier. Then we all bundled up and headed out to the subway to go to our church in Nolita for carols and Midnight Mass. My brother's wife was using the Baby Bjorn for the first time, and would you believe, despite the singing, the frankincense, the lights, the constant standing and kneeling, that baby slept against her for the entire hour and a half? Unbelievable. I really have never seen a calmer, more tranquil baby. Almost makes me feel like I could do it, too!

We were back at our apartment by 12:30AM, opened a few presents over plates of sweets and tea, and by 1:30AM everyone was on their way home. I did another quick clean up, set up the couch for my mom—who wanted some time with the baby, so stayed over on feeding/changing duty—and we were all alseep by 2AM.

When I woke up at 7AM I helped my mom with his morning feeding and change and then tucked him into bed between R and myself for another baby-coo-soundtracked sleep. Best morning nap ever. My brother and his wife came over a little after noon and we all got into a car and headed out to Long Island for Christmas Day with my mother's side of the family. When we finally arrived back home late that night, R and I agreed we'd have a low-key anniversary, which was lovely and intimate and restful.

Today I'm relaxing at home. A bit of knitting, much drinking of tea, and a bit of Netflixing. I found a really good BBC miniseries, actually. If you're like me, and find historical dramas + a bit of sleuthing + feisty, fierce women very enjoyable to watch, you might like The Bletchley Circle, about 4 women who were code breakers in London during WWII and then apply those same techniques to a murder mystery 10 years after the war. The miniseries is only 3 episodes long, but I've heard that there will be another season next year. Very good thing to watch while gathering up one's energy reserves for another bout of babysitting, which we'll be doing again tonight (!).

One year ago: Monday meanders: 4 & Merry Christmas from Honduras


  1. I have never really babysat for anyone and it just freaks me out..seems like you and R are both doing a great job with it :) knitting and netflixing sounds like my kind of evening these days.

    1. The first few moments are terrifying, then it all clicks into place. I've babysat/watched babies before, but never one as brand new as my nephew! How's the knitting coming along? Did you start?

    2. started knitting - the original plan was to make a scarf but now I was too anxious to get something done before the end of this year, hence a pot holder. I got some books on crochet and lace knitting, will be trying that soon. any good website recommendations?

    3. Congrats on finishing your first project! Check out and make an account. The forums on there are great for asking questions/getting help and I LOVE the "notebooks" that let you keep track of your patterns, stash, needles, projects, etc. Find me and check out my profile (, I keep a running list there of all my most helpful websites.

  2. I'm constantly amazed by the food you make and the presents are such a nice tradition... i cannot believe you were babysiting a new born overnight! guys are such troopers... and totally watched the bletchley perhaps the shortest series I've seen. We binge watched it all in a row ;0) been doing a lot of that this holiday... Another show we've been watching and got through all the seasons of was homeland, which was pretty suspenseful...

    1. You're sweet, thanks, dear! Team effort on the food front :).

      Definitely had my eyes opened by newborn vs. baby/toddler babysitting. What a difference!

      Long cold holidays are totally made for Netflix bingeing. I SO want to watch Homeland—seems right up my alley, but don't have access to it just yet. Soon, though, VERY soon.


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