It's a Beautiful Day
Austen found his voice recently—and it's very shrill. Sometimes he babbles pleasantly, saying things like "ay ya ya ya ya ya" and "hey da da da da da", and it's super cute. Other times, he SHRIEKS. Loudly, shrilly, earsplittingly. It's annoying enough at home, but in public it's stressful in the extreme. I'm horrified and embarrassed that I might be bothering other hotel guests, restaurant patrons, and driving range golfers, and that I can't get him to stop. I used to think, "geez, can't you shut that kid UP?" when I heard toddlers shrieking in stores, and now I know that the answer is NO. I also understand why those mothers didn't even seem to be trying: Because as a parent, you have to tune some of the shrieking out in order to preserve your sanity. You know there's very little you can do, so you save the little amunition you have for when it actually might do some good.
So anyway, after collapsing, exhausted, onto the bed last night at 7:30 and failing to convince Austen to (a) sleep or (b) stop shrieking, Al finally took him and let me conk out. They apparently jumped up and down on the couch for a while, and then Al snuggled Austen in next to me for his bedtime nursing at 8:45, and then got in bed himself at 9. We got up early, as planned (though Al and even I could have used another hour or so of uninterrupted snoozing)—early enough to get into PJ's Pancake House on Nassau Street for breakfast before a line formed out the door. From about half a block away I saw a large guy standing in the doorway with a cigarette, and I muttered to Al, "who smokes in the doorway?" As we approached, prepared to dash around him quickly to avoid the cloud of stale smoke, he said, "two? You can park the stroller right out here..." Apparently this was PJ, or at least the owner or manager of the place.
He ended up letting us take the stroller inside, where we folded it up and stashed it next to the table to avoid blocking the aisle, and PJ (or whoever he was) brought us a little baby seat that attached to the table. (We'd seen one like it on our NYC weekend when a couple brought their own to a Korean BBQ place on West 36th Street.) It was totally perfect for Austen; he got to sit at the table right next to me, but the sides were high enough that he couldn't quite reach onto my plate. Instead he amused himself with my empty creamer containers while we ate. I said to Al that this could possibly be the best meal I've had with Austen in attendance, even though the chocolate chip pancakes weren't quite as good as (though they were more expensive than) the ones at Artie's. The best thing we ordered between us was on Al's plate: the "mashed browns", which contained peppers and onions. The coffee was also quite good, especially with cream.
From PJ's we started our tour of the Princeton campus. I already knew the stroller-friendly routes to the bookstore and the train station, and those for the most part also turned out to be the shady routes. We got a couple shirts for my sister's kids at the bookstore, walked down to the train station and had a rest on a bench there, and then walked back up to Nassau street via Alexander Street. By that time Austen had fallen asleep, so we sat on a bench between Mercer Road and University Place to give him time to snooze. From there it was to the CVS to buy a couple miniature notebooks for me to carry with me, and on the way back we passed the coolest little table and chairs outside Nassau Interiors. Both of us liked the set instantly, and the price was very reasonable, so we bought it on the spot. I'll drive back up on Monday to pick it up, as there isn't room in the car at the moment.
We detoured down Tulane Street on our way back to the hotel on the advice of a sign, which pointed toward The Little Chef pastry shop. An worthy detour, I'd say, as it led to a wonderful little shop full of French pastries baked by a gentleman with an actual French accent. I should have asked his name and where he was from, but I didn't. I did ask if he did all the baking himself, and he said yes. We purchased an apple-apricot brioche (a small bite of which I've just taken, and so far, so delicious) and a chocolate croissant for later, looked in another furniture store for a baby-safe ottoman/coffee table for our living room (the glass one with the pointy metal frame that we have now is really Austen-unfriendly), and then returned here to the room. We're about to go out again for lunch and a drive around the area, so there'll be more food news later...