Thumper turns 1 (and we almost forget!)

My little girl is one year old. Amazing! How did that go so quickly?

She is the most amazing little girl, really happy and outgoing. She is also loud! And a climber. She is bold and strong and she does everything possible to keep up with her brother.

It’s been such a crazy time since we arrived almost a month ago that we almost forgot about our girl’s first birthday. Every day is shades of the previous day, getting up and getting out of the house as quickly as possible, some days going to Grug’s Sunset, as the Dude calls it (Sunset Grill – he was reading a Grug book when we told him the name of the breakfast place). Other days we just do a quick Tim Horton’s drive-through and head straight to whatever we’ve got on the list – buying stuff, picking stuff up, looking at cars, wandering around shops trying to work out if they have what we want. And then later in the day we might do something for the kids, go to the splash pad or the park or check something out in an area that we haven’t seen. Then there’s dinner. Urgh, the dreaded dinner. We had expected our Aussie stuff to have arrived by this point but it hasn’t (long story, too boring to mention here but I’ll put a footnote for the sake of documentation*) which means we have no dishes or cooking things. So we haven’t really been grocery shopping. Which means we don’t eat dinner at home unless we get takeaway which is Pizza Pizza. Most days we don’t even eat lunch. I take fruit and crackers for the kids, Dude sometimes gets something bought for him if he is hungry after the bits and pieces I take from home, and the little one usually eats most of the fruit during the day. It’s not ideal and it’s expensive. Plus we’re really getting sick of going out to eat. Okay so we could just buy a few things. But why do that when everything we need is about to show up on the doorstep?

So for the little girl’s birthday we decided that we should do something to mark the occasion. She is one so has no idea what’s going on which means we get to decide what to do. We decided to head to Niagara Falls, take some picnic food and have a little cake out there. It’s about an hour from us so a perfect distance to take the kids. And it’s a pretty cool place to go to celebrate your first birthday! The drive was great as we got to see a little bit of the land that we hadn’t seen before. The lake and all that surrounds it is lovely, and I’m appreciating the green that we don’t get much of in Australia. Some strange traffic along the way, seemingly there for no reason, and then on the way back a random car on fire on the side of the road – now the Dude thinks that cars just “go on fire” every time they have a crash!
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Niagara itself was busy but fairly easily accessible. And of course amazing, it’s an extraordinary place! I can’t believe the First Nations people don’t consider this a sacred place and there’s no hint of any kind of preservation campaign. Or maybe they do but they’re happy for it to be exploited, what with all the casino type stuff around. It is an amazing natural wonder, it’s almost like being in a dream seeing it up close. It was lost on the kids of course. Bub just wriggled a lot and after waking up properly after her nap on the way over, she was just keen to crawl around which was impossible around the falls themselves as it was big crowds of people, dirty concrete, and just not a good place to crawl. Dude of course demanded an icecream so after getting some great views, snapping some photos, and dodging other tourists, we got an overpriced icecream and walked back in  the direction of the green space. Both kids enjoyed just being outside I think. We ate some lunch, followed by cake, and a special first taste of it for Thumper, which she of course loved! The boys “played baseball” – ie. Dude tried to hit the foam-covered ball with his kid-size foam-covered bat and succeeded about fifty per cent of the time. Not bad actually, for a four-year-old who hadn’t heard of baseball until a month or so ago.
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It was a lovely day out, beautiful weather, stunning natural wonder. I wish there wasn’t a whole bunch of shops surrounding the falls and the buildings so close, on the other side too. It’s amazing to just look across and think, hey, that’s America just over there! Weird, anyway. But I guess for a European it’s like, um, what’s the big deal? The falls, however, cannot be dismissed. The water just cascades away, it’s incredible, it’s almost too amazing to conceive of, like you can’t take it all in and realise that, yes, you really are looking at this.
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We jumped back in our grossly undersized yet awesome Ford Focus hire car and drove home. We did think about going to Niagara on the Lake as well but it would have been a bit much for the kids to make two stops and expect bubs to sleep and/or cope with being awake in the car for an hour without getting restless, given her need to practice walking around holding on to things.

There was the usual discussion about whether we should go to Kesley’s or Jack Astor’s or some other delicious but unaffordable place we’ve been numerous times and are actually quite sick of now. So we decided to try something new. Chinese food, in fact Asian food in general, doesn’t seem to be as prevalent here, or at least it’s not done as well as in Australia from what I can gather. If we were in downtown Toronto, we’d find something cheap and delicious from any part of the globe but here in Oakville it’s a little bit of a backwater. So we took a hint from Google (I had nothing to do with it, as everywhere I’ve suggested so far has been a disaster!) and went to this Chinese place nearby with great reviews. It turned out to be quite swanky and all the servers were dressed in full on traditional dress. Every time they served a particular dish they rang this gong, it was quite cool (and slightly odd). It was a little intimidating going there with the two kids as the atmosphere was very quiet, gentle music playing, everything laid out just so to a high standard, lots of beautiful traditional decorations all around. But the people were nice and didn’t seem put out by us. We ordered some dumplings for the Dude which are not 10 for $7 here like back home, and it was very pleasant, despite the usual trying to commandeer both kids, stop them running around and trashing things. Thumper doesn’t like to sit in a high chair for long, especially if there is no food on offer, so I always bring little snacks while she’s waiting for her meal but inevitably she ends up climbing out of the high chair (or screeching until I undo the belt, if it’s a really good one that she can’t get out of herself – most of them aren’t and she does a Houdini type escape).

Anyway, the food was delicious and the people were very accommodating. Luckily the restaurant wasn’t full, probably because we were there at 5pm, and we managed to get through the meal without totally destroying any possibility of going back again. Near the end, as we drank our coffees, the Dude went off to the toilet for the hundredth time, and Mr Chewbacca and I had a rare few minutes with just Thumper. And then the most amazing thing happened: she walked! On her birthday, she took half a dozen steps to walk from daddy to mummy, just like that. So typical, she’s such a “normal” baby, hitting all the milestones exactly on time and in the way described in the most mundane of parenting manuals. She just did it, and was like, hey, now I can walk! We just looked at each other and laughed, not really believing what we’d just witnessed! She did it once or twice more before the day was done. It really topped off a brilliant day where we were so proud of our girl and momentarily distracted from worrying about the giant task of settling in here in this new place.

*So the story with our stuff: Allied Pickfords told us the expected delivery is between 10 and 12 days after uplift in Melbourne. Then they sent us some form to fill out for Canadian Customs. We couldn’t do that straight away as we were flying across the world and had no access to phones, Internet or printers for ages after we arrived but we thought we had time because it’s a Canadian form. Turns out, no, they wouldn’t even put our stuff on a flight leaving Australia until we’d sent them back the stupid form! And they decided to let us know about this around the time we were expecting our stuff to arrive. Gee thanks. So we did that but it meant our stuff took like 27 days. Yes, it arrived the day after Thumper turned one. Phew!

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Two years of the Dude

The Dude turns two in less than a month! Time sure does fly. In some ways, it’s seemed like forever for him to get to two and I feel like he’ll never grow up, but in other ways, it’s hard to believe it’s gone so quickly. I haven’t done an update on him for ages, so here’s the latest.

He’s insane. Not just active, truly crazy. He is the most full on person, even more full on than Mr C in some ways. He is quite destructive at times, deliberately so, sometimes to get a reaction out of me and sometimes just because. He tries to smash the tv with toys or cutlery; he turns on the oven and then stands on the open door; he pulls all the DVDs out and takes the paper covers out and the discs and then stomps on them; he squishes food and cutlery and anything else he can in the smallest spaces, like under the tv stand. He throws toys, phones, anything even slightly delicate, just to see if they break, and when they do, he shouts, “oh no, broken!” He puts his trike or his plastic chair on top of the coffee table and then tries to climb up and sit or even stand on them. So dangerous! Needless to say, it takes every ounce of patience not to lose it with him!

He is well and truly into the ‘terrible twos’. I don’t mean to label him, but it’s true, he is there. He screams every time I put him in the car and will kick up a huge fuss when I try to get him out again, unless there is an incentive like a busy carpark to try and run into nearby. He absolutely refuses to hold my hand when crossing the road and will scream and sit down in the middle of the road, so I end up just pulling him across the road or picking him up, where he squirms and tries to jump out of my arms. He’s not the heaviest kid for his age, somewhere around the 75th percentile – about 13.5kg – but he is, of course, very tall, and still right at the top of the growth chart, which means he can be difficult to wrangle. Gone are the days when I could do a bit of cooking or walk around the house with him on my hip; these days I can manage it for about five minutes before my arm starts to break. On the plus side, he is easier to communicate with as he understands virtually everything I say and I’ve found that sometimes a firm voice can do wonders. It’s often hard to tell when he’s genuinely upset and when he’s just being overly dramatic. And yes, I know it’s probably not very AP of me to ever think his feelings are not ‘real’, but seriously, this child is a great actor! He screams bloody murder for nothing, and there I am trying to find out what’s going on, trying to cuddle him, trying to make him happy so he’ll calm down, and he doesn’t want a bar of it. Sometimes, if I just look him in the eye and tell him to calm down and stop, then put him down and walk off, he’ll calm down instantly and it’ll be like nothing has happened. He really is his father’s son.

Words are coming thick and fast, and two-word sentences are also emerging. He is clearly very musical and walks around the house singing Twinkle Twinkle at least 20 times a day. Whatever he’s focused on or talking about, he’ll start singing about. So if it’s Daddy, he’ll just replace the words “‘Twinkle Twinkle” with “Daddy Daddy”. It’s very cute. He can make himself understood about 80 per cent of the time with me, and probably 50 per cent with Mr C, and it’s really only his pronunciation that lets him down, as he knows so many words and talks so much. I’ve found the transition of learning to say words pretty fascinating, from a linguistic perspective. For example, he used to say “yo” for yoghurt. Then it became “yogie” and now he actually says “yoghurt”. It’s been this three stage process. It was like that with bus too, he used to say “bu” and then one day he just said “bus” and now that’s what he says. He wants to speak whole sentences but he just doesn’t have the capacity to pronounce words all in a row yet, so he’ll say, “viju viju viju viju, work?” and his voice will go up at the end to form a question, so he’s asking “has daddy gone to work?” or something similar. He got the intonation down pat ages ago, so he knows how to alter the tone in his voice at various points in speech to denote a question or a statement or even when he’s searching for something he’s lost; he’ll say, “ba-all, ba-all” in this sing-songy voice when he’s trying to find his ball, it’s very cute. He knows his own name now, which is cute, and also refers to himself as “you”, “me” and sometimes “dude”. Usually after he spills or breaks something he shouts, “oh duuuuude”!

He is pretty good with other kids and the brief period where he threw toys or hit them on the head was clearly just a short phase. I notice other kids who’ve been in care have huge problems sharing toys or waiting their turn or they just come up and hit other kids for no reason. Dude never seems concerned when other kids push or hit him or take toys from him; he’ll usually just smile and try to interact with the kid, it’s pretty awesome. He offers food and drink to others, to his toys, especially his talking Yoda. It’s hilarious, sometimes I’ll come into the living room to find Yoda lying on the coffee table with a fork sticking out of his mouth or vegemite in his hair as the Dude has been trying to feed him. He talks to toys, “hello, hello, hello Yoda” and will say “num num num” when ‘feeding’ them. He also hasn’t lost his ability to turn everything into a phone, from the xbox controller to the potato peeler, everything is held up to the ear and a ‘hello?’ spoken. He also likes to ring ‘ba-mah’ (grandma) – “Hello? Ba-mah? Oh, ha ha ha. Bye!” I guess that’s his extroversion shining through. He’s happy being around others and doesn’t mind what they do or what happens, just being around them makes him happy.

Food is a little bit of a struggle. He’s never been a big eater, but since the beginning of summer I’ve been trying to get him to eat fruit and he just won’t, it’s bizarre. A year earlier, when he was starting out on solids, he used to plow through melon and mango and stone fruit quite happily. He never got the hang of apples, and never liked bananas, but I was never concerned because bananas are known to constipate and apples are pretty hard. But now, he knows what fruit is, knows the names of some and will even ask for it or pick it up out of the fruit bowl or my bowl, but even if he occasionally puts some in his mouth, he’ll immediately spit it out and say ‘yucky’. I really don’t understand, it’s like a phobia or something. It’s not that he can’t handle texture, as he quite happily eats huge pieces of cooked veg or meat in a stew or curry, he’ll eat toast or pancakes or cereal, and he likes some dried fruit. But a piece of raw fruit or veg, no way Jose! Back in the day I used to give him fingers of cucumber and he’d happily eat those, sometimes even raw carrot sticks or zucchini, no problem. Not now. It’s kind of worrying because I feel that raw things are pretty important, but I do make him smoothies now and again and he loves them. He likes to stand up on his stool at the kitchen bench while I cut up all the fruit – banana, melon, berries – to go in, then sometimes add yoghurt or a bit of juice or almond milk and usually chia seeds or cashews. “Moosh!” he’ll shout, pointing at the cupboard where the blender lives. So it’s not the taste of the raw stuff I don’t think, but it’s sometimes to do with the texture mixed with the taste. I really don’t know but I’m going with the flow, continuing to offer him stuff, eat stuff in front of him, and I fully expect that one day he’ll just be cool with it. He certainly has some bizarre tastes – he loves to steal our coffees in the morning and will guzzle a whole cup full of milky espresso if given the chance, even without sugar! I try to stop him and I give him his own babycino in his little mug which is just the tiniest drop of espresso with lots of frothy milk on top and he’ll happily spoon it out and then drink the liquid. We discovered last night that he loves balsamic vinegar. He loves sauces of any kind, tomato, HP, you name it. And he likes really spicy food! I made a curry a while ago that I thought was actually a bit too hot even for me, but the Dude loved it, no problem. So I’m finding it hard to believe that tastes aren’t inherited, as this is all stuff that’s not as much my kind of food but that his dad loves. Strong flavours, spice and acid, anything rich, but not necessarily sweet.

He asks me to dance most days, which involves standing up, holding hands and jumping about excitedly. He loves the swing and the slide and can climb up and go down all by himself now. He spins around until he’s so dizzy he falls over and thinks it’s hilarious. Meanwhile I’m feeling queasy just looking at him! He is now discovering how to roll down a hill and spends ages just rolling around on the grass trying to coordinate his body. A few months ago, he saw some kids crawling on tv and he just got down and started crawling around, the perfect cross-crawl. I was amazed, given his bizarre one-footed crawl and my worries about how right dominant he was. He still is very much right dominant, but it appears to be evening out of its own accord, as I sometimes notice him leading with the left foot or trying to draw with his left hand. He loves technology of all kinds and (I regret this) he watches tv. Mainly Cee Beebies, the BBC children’s channel, and a little bit of ABC2.  He also loves plugging and unplugging all manner of technology, learning how the remote works, and playing music on our phones. I can’t say he’s particularly adept with the old iphone; I’m comparing here, but a while ago I saw a little girl calmly and expertly flicking through the photos on her mum’s phone. She was 17 months. Dude has only really learnt how to do that in the last month, and he doesn’t last long. He’s the same with playing music on the ipod, he loves skipping from one song to the next but a little too much, so he’ll end up hammering the screen controls and eventually pauses it by accident or presses the ‘home’ button.

As far as sleep goes, he is much improved, mainly due to my patience and consistency. He actually asks for “seep” when he’s tired for his midday nap, which is usually one to one and a half hours, and his evening bedtime is 7pm. He is always tired and ready for bed, and although will protest against the nappy change and sometimes be a bit impatient about teeth brushing, he happily goes to bed and we’ve never had an argument about that. I’m sure that’ll come. Most nights he goes down straight away, over the space of about half an hour to 40  minutes, where I just lie down and feed him. Lately he’s occasionally been stopping feeding before he’s asleep, rolling away and just going off to sleep. There are some times when I have to tell him to ‘lie down and go to sleep’ a few times, as he’ll have a bit of milk and be a bit energised and want to chat. Sometimes he’ll tell me he’s done a poo, which is always a lie, just a ploy to get up again. And sometimes he’ll ask for daddy instead of me, which is often just a ploy to stay awake longer but sometimes he’ll just fall asleep on Mr C’s chest, which is nice. Often he’ll sleep all the way through until after we come to bed, which is an absolute miracle considering what he was like when he was littler. He still wakes a couple of times in the night, and I’m finding this increasingly annoying and unnecessary so I’m going to be exploring night-weaning once his last molars are in. Oh, and speaking of poo, we did begin the toilet learning journey a few months ago but so far it’s been relatively unsuccessful. He doesn’t seem to really care about doing wees, and will look down in mild surprise when he wees during nappy-free time, then will either splash in it or just keep playing. He sometimes tells me when he’s going to poo or has pooed and occasionally I notice and ask him if he’s pooing and he’ll say “yeah”. But we’re quite far from actual wees and poos in the potty. I tried for a few days, getting him to sit on the potty outside without a nappy on every few minutes, but he never once got the wee in there. He’d sit for a few seconds, and then run off and then a wee would just arrive at random and he’d ignore it and keep playing. Perhaps I’m being too lazy, but I think I won’t push the issue and will follow his lead. Next time round, it’ll be EC all the way, at least early on anyway!

Gee, this has turned into a whole Dude update… and there I was, thinking I was going to write about how things have changed for me since the Dude’s arrival. Save it for another post.

Long haul: coping with big cities and non-child-friendly places

This is the third and final installment in my series on travelling across the world with a young toddler.

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Driving the safari truck. So what if I can’t reach the steering wheel?

Oddly enough, when we booked this holiday nearly a year beforehand, I was most apprehensive about going to South Africa with the Dude. I didn’t really think about being in London with him, and in Manchester and Carlisle we’d be with family anyway. I feared that the other people with us in South Africa were not there to hang out with a little kid and would be wanting to drink and party it up. I envisaged I’d be alone with the Dude a lot, while the others had fun. Which is fine, although it seemed a bit pointless to go if this was going to be the case. In the end, the South Africa leg was probably one of the best aspects of our trip. Not only did it break up the flight perfectly, but the game farm we were staying on for most of the five days was such a great place for the Dude. It was just in the middle of the bush, lots of trees and flowers and dirt and creepy crawlies, but nothing harmful, not like in Australia. It rained really heavily one morning but it was still quite warm, so Dude just went out and splashed around in all the puddles and had a great time.  He sat up in the safari truck and pretended to change gears and steer, it was awesome. And there were a few other kids there, Afrikaaner kids of family and friends, so he played a bit with them which was lovely. Most of our friends loved having him around and were happy to play with him or keep an eye out for him. There were difficult elements, like when we wanted to stay and have dinner and a few drinks and the Dude was ready for bed at his usual time of 7pm. But we managed by putting him in the ergo on my or Mr C’s back, and whoever had him just stood a little apart from the noise of the people for a bit while he fell asleep, then just kept moving so he more or less stayed asleep until it was time to head back to our cabin which was just up the road. It was a challenge with no lights at night, having to light paraffin and gas lamps to change him when he was totally past it and just wanted to be asleep. But overall, a positive experience.

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Misty Manchester. Can’t say foggy, I’ll be in trouble with Mr C who believes in some undefinable but critical scale defining airborne moisture particles. It’s a mortal sin to call a mist a fog apparently!

Manchester was interesting. It was challenging keeping him confined not only to the small space of the inside of the house but also inside for most of the day, as it was just too cold for him to run around outside unless we rugged him up and got rugged up ourselves. And in Carlisle even that wasn’t possible as it was really icy and he couldn’t walk a few paces without slipping over on the ice. He really missed his outside time. It wasn’t fun trying to get him to have his nap at the Trafford Centre (a huge shopping centre in Manchester) as, until then, he’d never fallen asleep in his pram in a shopping centre. If he was in the ergo, he probably would have, but I didn’t have it with me that day and he’s getting quite heavy for it. When he did finally pass out it was really only for about 40 minutes and he was really angry about that.

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On the drive up to Carlisle from Manchester. The British countryside, particularly the more northern parts, is so incredibly inspiring to me.

The lack of light was a hard one too, although it meant we got a sleep-in most mornings as he didn’t wake up until it was getting light. In the afternoon it seemed like it got dark so early, so the days felt very short, and it made his outside time even more precious. When we took him out to Manchester city centre, he stayed in the pram virtually the whole time, and this was like torture for him as he couldn’t really run off his energy. One day we attempted to get some shopping done by taking him to one of those supervised kids’ play areas and leaving nanna to keep an eye on him. Disasterous! He apparently cried the whole time and only stopped when he saw a man that looked like daddy whose leg he clung to and then briefly played with the man’s children before noticing we weren’t there and getting upset all over again. Poor nanna. She did try, but obviously he’s so strongly attached to his mum and dad, there was nothing she could do.

It's like Blue Poles, industrial stylie. Awesome!
It’s like Blue Poles, industrial stylie. Awesome!

In London, we took public transport. Now the tube etc there is just brilliant, an amazing achievement and I think all cities should aspire to something like that. But it’s not perfect, at least not for those on wheels! I loved the idea, in theory, of putting him in the ergo and leaving the pram at home, but it actually doesn’t work if you’re going on a long day trip to the city. At some point, he’s got to have running around time, which means you have to chase him, and when he’s not running around, he’s strapped to your back, all 12kg of him. The ergo is amazing, don’t get me wrong, and it wouldn’t ever cause a back problem, but there is a limit to how many hours I can walk around with him on my back without feeling stiff and tired. And I can’t really sit down for any length of time as the Dude will get restless in about a minute.  I imagine the feeling of being carried completely changes for him when I sit down. So we took the pram. The shitty, horrible, flimsy Peg Perego Pliko Switch. Just to digress for a moment to whinge, my dad bought this pram for the Dude on his first birthday. We hadn’t bothered to buy one before as we were gifted one and I tried the Dude in it a few times when he was really little and it was hell, he hated it, so I just wore him in the hugabub or, later, the ergo. Miraculously, when we tried him in the new pram, he actually fell asleep and didn’t seem to hate it. The pram was on sale as that model had just been superseded  so it would have been $750 but was reduced to $450.  I thought this was a brilliant saving.  I liked the fact that it was fairly compact and not a jogging stroller, and it seemed to do what we needed.  It even had a drink holder! But shortly after buying it, things started to go wrong. Parts just didn’t stay together, the top shade would randomly pop off and end up lop-sided, the wire connecting the brakes would just flick off at random and get caught on things, and the extending handles didn’t really extend very much.  In fact Mr C hates using it because he can’t walk with his usual stride as the handles don’t extend up enough, so he always kicks his foot as he walks. It is quite heavy at 12kg and we soon discovered that the folding action was pretty dodgy.  Not broken, but not easy to do one-handed, as is indicated in the instructions. Plus it never stayed folded and would just start unfolding every time we picked it up! There are few good things to say about the pram actually and we hate it so much. But we don’t have money for a new one, so we took it with us overseas. I didn’t notice when I got it out at Sydney airport, but the front wheel had been totally crushed in transit. The plastic is really brittle and just flimsy, I don’t think it would take much to crack it. So that wheel is all wobbly and the rubber is slowly coming off the crumbling plastic wheel. At least this is a good reason to get a new one, but I must say I’m less than impressed at the idea of having to buy a new pram only nine months after we bought it.

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A brief snapshot on a bridge on a bitterly cold afternoon in London. Think it was somewhere near London Bridge, or possibly on it!

So, when we caught the train in London, we faced some difficulties with the pram. A lot of newer stations, such as all those on the DLR and Jubilee Line are accessible, which is brilliant, but many are not. In addition, you can’t be certain that the lifts or escalators will be working when you get there. We had such a hard time getting from the airport to the Isle of Dogs where we were staying, especially as there were works happening on the Bank end of the DLR which meant going via the Overground and District Line, neither of which had lifts or escalators. After next to no sleep on the ten-hour flight from Johannesburg, carrying the pram, which would have been nigh on 25kg with the Dude in it, up and down stairs was absolutely hideous. The rest of the time it was fine, as we splurged and took the Thames Clipper down to Embankment a few days, and the rest of the time the DLR to Shadwell which has a lift, albeit the smallest lift in the world that only fits one pram at a time so there is always a line up.

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Qantas’ contribution towards the fate of our shitty stroller.

Heading into central London for a day out wasn’t the most difficult thing in the world, but making sure the Dude was warm, comfortable, fed and not bored was really challenging. We did bring lots of warm stuff but I think we could have done better there. I noticed all the UK ‘buggies’, as they call them, had really cool zip-up insulated bag things fitted onto the pram and covering the baby’s whole body.  Our pram does have one of those cover things but it’s not really designed for cold and just sort of clips on loosely. We also didn’t have a full snow suit or down jacket for him, and I would have felt better if he was wearing something like that, although he was warm enough with a few layers and he learnt how to keep his hat on which was awesome as previously he’d just rip it off. He didn’t manage to keep his gloves on for long though, which was annoying as his little hands were icicles in minutes. I think if he’d grown up in the cold he’d be used to the gloves. I put cotton tights on him under his cords or jeans and then socks on top before his little furry leather boots which were really awesome. Ultimately, though, the extreme temperature changes took their toll and he did get sick, throwing up all over me and the floor in an Indian restaurant! They were really nice about it, although everyone at the table was a bit revolted I think, understandable!! There was one day we took him into central London and let him run round Hamley’s for a while, which was an absolute mad house but he loved having all the toys to play with. It got really hard later in the afternoon when we tried to have a late lunch in a pie shop and he was just pissed off.  He screamed and squirmed and generally made life hell for us. Not even breastfeeding did the trick. I always thought I’d get dirty looks and rude comments from the general public when he did this sort of thing, but, although people are clearly unimpressed sometimes, I’m yet to receive a negative comment, even when he’s really showing off and making a scene. People really are tolerant, generally speaking, and for that I’m very grateful.

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The great man himself!

Overall, what would I do differently next time? If possible, I’d avoid taking a child of this age that far away into such a different environment! But if I had to do it again, I’d get a better stroller, I’d have some better winter outfits, and I’d probably try and do the ergo thing more. Generally speaking, though, I wouldn’t take a toddler to central London. The amount of enjoyment he got out of it versus the amount of time he was pissed off was just not worth it. The memories, for us, are a great thing though. The photo with the statue of the Dude’s namesake on the Embankment, getting to see London again, his grandparents, cousins, aunt, and other family and friends getting to meet him, all these things and more made it worth it. It was never going to be a walk in the park, but we did it, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Long haul: co-sleeping on the move

This is the second in a series of posts I’m doing on our recent trip to South Africa and the UK.

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The candelabra chandelier at out cabin on the farm. We never lit it but in winter, with a fire going in the grate, this would be gorgeous. No electricity is lovely!

When planning this trip and getting in touch with all the people we’d be staying with, the question was always, ‘oh, what about a cot for the little one?’ And the response was always, ‘oh no, don’t worry, he sleeps with us’. Most people, I think, know this is what we do.  Some probably just think, okay, whatever, don’t know why you’d do that but okay. Others probably think the ‘rod for your own back’ thing. And obviously some, who do the same, realise how easy co-sleeping can make things. Not that I’m saying I’d have chosen to co-sleep before the Dude arrived. In fact, I was staunchly against it when my midwife first broached the subject. But it has given us more sleep than trying to get him to sleep on his own in a cot, that I’m absolutely certain of. I have a dream that the next one will be like I was as a baby and sleep 12 hours a night from three months. Ha!

So, on this trip, we slept in a lot of different places (including the plane, although I don’t know I’d count that as sleeping, more passing out temporarily from exhaustion, only to be woken by a kick in the face and an angry screech). First up was our good friend’s parents’ place in Krugerstorp, just outside of Johannesburg. They have a typically South African gorgeous big rambling house with heaps of room, pool, tennis court, beautiful grounds, all surrounded by tall iron gates. We spent one night there before driving out to ‘the farm’, and we stayed in a lovely big room which was sort of outside the rest of the house, or at least the entrance was, with an ensuite bathroom across the way. The bed, we were informed, was very old, apparently made by our friend’s grandfather or great-grandfather, beautifully carved wood, but sadly only a standard double size. We have a queen at home with the Dude’s cot side-carted (he has finally started rolling into it sometimes when he’s asleep, woo hoo!) so lots more room. It was very peaceful in the room. I finally succumbed to sleep when I put the Dude down about 8:30pm and he did manage to stay asleep for a couple of hours. We dragged a big old piano stool to my side of the bed and put pillows all around, just in case he decided to roll off, and that sort of worked although he did push it away when he was really restless. Of course, because of jet lag, he woke about 2:30am and started playing around. I gave him some travel flower essence and some rescue remedy for sleep that I’d bought in preparation and let him play around a bit. Mr C, who’d stayed up far too late having beers and catching up with our friend’s brothers, was in no mood to be jumped on, but he sleepily tolerated it. Amazingly enough, Dude was awake about 40 minutes, and then I switched off the light, laid him back down and he went back off to sleep! That was pretty much the extent of his jet lag, and when you consider that Sydney and Johannesburg are something like nine hours apart time-wise, I think that was pretty impressive.

The next day, we drove through to our friend’s parents’ game farm, which is about 90 minutes away.  I sat in the back between our friend’s mum and the Dude.  He slept part of the way and was pretty good, but towards the end he got really upset and just wanted out. Of course, I’d forgotten: TIA! This is Africa! Stuff keeping kids restrained and all that! His mum said to me she’d actually prefer me to have him on my lap and that it’s no big deal, they wouldn’t get pulled over for it. I realised she was right when I noticed all the utes with half a dozen guys just sitting in the back, cruising along the dusty, pot-holed highways at 100km/hr.  So I put him on my lap, held him firmly, fed him, and he was happy. When we arrived at the farm, it dawned on us that there is no electricity. None at all. But paraffin and gas lamps, gas hot water, and even a paraffin fridge meant we had all the comforts of home, more or less. It did pose a bit of a problem arriving home after dark and having to get the Dude changed by the light of lamps, or when we were feeling too tired, our phones. On that first night at the farm, the Dude woke again around the same time, but he couldn’t get up and play because it was absolutely pitch black.  Mr C found it quite unnerving, being unable to see even your hand right in front of your face, but for me it was just brilliant not to have that distraction of electricity and technology. And because it was so dark, I think the Dude must have thought he was still asleep, so he wrestled around for a few minutes, had a booby, and fell back to sleep. And that was it for jet lag, all done. I seemed to have recovered fairly well too, but Mr C struggled the whole time, waking at 2am and being unable to sleep or see anything. The cabin we stayed in was well ventilated but no fly screens were on the windows which we left open the whole time. Luckily it cooled down nicely at night. The Dude had to sleep between us which was a bit squishy, again, in a double bed, but it worked and made things so easy without having to work out the logistics of fitting in a cot and trying to get him to stay asleep in there. The interesting thing about co-sleeping is that when I’m telling others about it, I always find they have their stories about how they did it, even though it wasn’t the done thing. Our friend’s mum had stories like that, and she’d had five kids, all grown up now.

After our five night in South Africa, we headed over to the UK for the Dude to meet his grandparents in Manchester. We had explained to Mr C’s mum that Dude doesn’t sleep in a cot, but I think she had a hard time working this out in her head as her kids had all slept in cots whether they liked it or not. She had gone to the trouble of getting us a travel cot (which was never even unpacked) and even another little blow up bed which was really cute, but again, the Dude just jumped around on it for a few seconds and then was totally disinterested. Because he’s always slept with us, he doesn’t get the concept of having his own bed and I wasn’t about to try and transition him when he’s already in a strange place. So he slept between us in the spare bed, again, a double, which made it pretty squishy. I’d forgotten how much smaller everything is in the UK, space-saving.

We’d decided we’d try and take advantage of having grandparents around and head out a couple of nights. The second night we were there, we had tickets to see Ben Folds at the Manchester Apollo.  I got the Dude down to sleep at 7pm and we headed out. Nanna was in charge. I’d warned her that he almost never stays asleep and that he won’t just go back to sleep after a bit of a grizzle.  She’ll need to go in and pick him up and rock him back to sleep, or lie down with him and cuddle him. Even that, I was pretty sure, might pose problematic. I knew he’d scream because he’s used to me being there, or even daddy coming in sometimes to lie down with him. He barely knew this person, despite the fact she is is nanna. When we got home, shortly after 11pm, the scene was pretty dismal. Nanna was exhausted, having tried everything to get him to chill out, and Dude had eventually passed out once or twice but was lying half awake in her lap. She whispered at me in horror, ‘he’s not normal!’ as I went upstairs to get him back to sleep again. I knew this would happen. It’s nearly impossible to impart to someone with such different ideas about parenting just what we do and how we do it. And I don’t think she realised that the Dude doesn’t ever back down, he never gives up, he tells you what he wants and will keep telling you as loudly as possible until he gets it! I don’t see this as a negative thing necessarily, not for an 18-month-old, as I think he isn’t aware of himself as an individual yet and is just expressing his needs and happens to be very good at doing so. My mother-in-law is of a different school of thought. She believes babies and children should be placed in their cots when the adult determines it’s bed time and the door shut and the baby left to get to sleep any way possible, even if that means lots of screaming and crying. Personally I believe this can permanently damage a child. And aside from that, I don’t agree with ignoring cries of distress from any loved one, adult or child. If my husband was afraid and confused and needing the comfort of my arms, I’d give it to him. Why not a baby?

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London, man, you can’t beat it!

Anyway, the ten days or so we were in Manchester were very interesting. I know my mother-in-law doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me on many aspects of parenting, and I know she mentioned it a few times to Mr C, but to her credit, she didn’t try to have a go at me about it or start a fight. She mentioned a few times politely what she thinks should happen and why, and I explained why that wouldn’t work for us and we really just left it at that. I would love the Dude to sleep in his own bed, and yes, in his own room, I’m not going to deny that, but I know that’s not what he needs and it’s not in keeping with the basic, instinctive needs of babies and children, which dominate more than our learned behaviours, particularly at this age. One day, he will transition to his own space, perhaps with some gently assistance from his parents, but never will I force him into anything. I know someone who is now desperate for love and touch and comfort because he never received enough as a baby. I don’t want the Dude to end up that way.

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The pond down the road from Mr C’s nan’s house in Carlisle. Gorgeous and icy!

On our second last night in Manchester, something interesting happened. We went for dinner with friends, leaving nanna to deal with the Dude again. When we got home, he was miraculously sleeping peacefully by himself in bed. Apparently he’d woken as usual but she’d done something different this time. She got the distinct impression that he was afraid of the dark, so she turned on the light. He saw she was there and quickly fell back to sleep! Of course, I don’t know how long all this took or what else happened, but he seemed very different. My mother-in-law said she just knew he was scared to be in the dark and as soon as he could see where he was and that someone was there, he was fine. I have had that idea before, but I can’t say it’s ever helped me, although my experience of getting him to sleep is always going to differ because I’m the mummy with the boobies! So I was relieved that MIL managed to work out how to get him settled and he was happier to be around her. I was also glad because I think she had been feeling somewhat rejected and this really turned things around.

We stayed in London with friends for the last five days of our trip. They’d asked the cot question too of course and had kindly arranged a whole bunch of other stuff for us which we actually didn’t need, like a highchair and stair gates. It was interesting because they have chosen not to have kids, so while they like them, they are happy in their lovely house, just the two of them. We tried our best to make sure the Dude didn’t trash anything and that meant turning off most electrical stuff at the wall and turning the bin around so it was less accessible. The bed, thankfully, was a queen size, so we were pretty comfortable. Of course, the Dude getting sick and vomiting in the middle of a restaurant and then later in the hallway and in the bed (luckily we’d already put towels down) was a pretty hideous way to end the trip, but what can you do? He is a vomity person, it seems.

Overall, co-sleeping worked really well for us while travelling, and saved the hassle of organising cots and rearranging rooms. Small beds are hard to deal with, and I know sometimes he is disturbed by us being next to him, but other times he is woken because we’re NOT there.  It’s hard when the Dude is between us and kicks off the covers as we all end up cold. So there are pros and cons. As I say, if I had a child who would fall asleep and then be put in a bed without waking, I’d be doing that. But I don’t. Next time we go, he’ll be in his own bed, I hope.

The next and final installment in my series of posts on long haul travelling with a toddler will be about coping with big cities and non-child-friendly places.

Long Haul: flying across the world with an energetic toddler

This is the first in a series of posts I’m doing on our recent trip to South Africa and the UK. This first post covers flying long haul with a young toddler.

I knew it was going to be hard. Not only is the Dude at that stage where he just wants to explore everything, he’s also mobile enough to do so, and as tall as a kid a year older, so he can get into things that an older kid would have a bit more awareness of. Breastfeeding is such a godsend in these kinds of situations, but I knew eventually he’d be sick of even that. The flight from Sydney to Johannesburg was 13 hours, then after the five days in South Africa we’d be flying on to London which was a 10-hour flight.  On the way home, we were going right the way through: 13 hours from London to Singapore, a 90-minute refuel, then back on the plane for the 7 hours to Sydney. People had always said how much easier it made it to have a few days in between the legs, and I’d always agreed, but until I did it, I had no idea how true that was!

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The windows in the cabin on the farm – no screens, but we didn’t end up with any Parktown Prawns in our beds. In fact all creepy crawlies are not poisonous in SA, who knew?

We set out for our 10am flight from Sydney and already we were behind the eight ball.  Having tried and failed to utilise Sydney’s train system to get to the airport before (which is literally half an hour’s drive away, maximum), we decided to just bite the bullet and get a cab. Even this proved a huge stress. The motorway was, as usual, congested for no reason, and we sat tight hoping we’d arrive with enough time to spare. Rocking up to the Qantas check-in, we got rid of the pram straight away and the Dude, who was already running around the airport like a crazed ape, was strapped to my back in the ergo. Most people take their strollers right to the gate, but we have never done this.  Little did we know, when leaving South Africa, we’d get a good lesson in why baby-carriers freaking rock and prams are sent by the devil to torture us! Given our 10am take-off, it coincided pretty much straight away with the Dude’s nap time, which is usually around 11am so he didn’t take too long to fall asleep. We had elected not to have the bassinet, given the Dude is so long and probably a little heavy for it, plus getting him to sleep on his own, even if it’s a metre away from me, is pretty hard. I’d resigned myself to having him draped across my lap, and hopefully getting a break for a short while to eat or stretch or go to the bathroom. I had visions in my head of the Dude sort of lying right across my and Mr C’s laps, and then us being able to put our chairs back and get sleep. I had no idea how we’d fold down tray tables and I didn’t expect to get to watch any movies. I ended up propping pillows under his head so I could pull my arm out from underneath and have both hands free for a while. Once he’d had a nap, during which time we managed to eat lunch by positioning both trays of food on Mr C’s tray table, he was rearing to go. He was full of beans and desperate to run, so we took it in turns to let him run up and down the plane aisles, following behind. He met a little girl, about three or so, who was doing the same, so they chased each other up and down, probably annoying a few passengers at the same time, but it was better than trying to restrain him in the seat. I must admit, I got a little slack with following him after a while and sort of let him go up the aisle, expecting him to turn around when he got to the end where the hostesses arrange the food. And then he didn’t come back. I realised he’d probably continued on through up the plane, so I quickly made my way up. No, not in the next aisle either.  I realised I shouldn’t have let him out of my sight! By the time I got to him, he’d made his way all the way up to Business Class (and on an A380, starting near the back, that’s a long way!) I quickly grabbed him and turned him back around, only to be politely informed by a hostess that he really shouldn’t be here.  Oops!  It wasn’t too long after that when things started to really get out of hand.  Both Dude and the little girl were really hyped up and were getting more crazy, bashing into things, stealing random stuff as they ran along, squealing, getting in the way.  As I was grabbing him to bring him back to the seat to calm down, another steward said perhaps we shouldn’t let them run like that as they’re bound to get hurt.  And he was right, it was only a matter of time. So we hauled him back to the seat, and I got to change him in the smallest changing facility ever! For those who haven’t taken a baby on a plane, the change tables are in most of the bathrooms, and they fold down above the toilet.  So you have to sort of lean over and change baby on the side, which is awkward but not impossible. I can’t imagine how anyone over about 5’10” would manage it without doing themselves a bit of a mischief though. I didn’t ask Mr C to do a change for that very reason, as he has enough of a problem folding his 6’3″ frame, complete with herniated discs in his back, into those tiny toilets.

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The view from our bedroom window in Manchester. Could you get any more typically British? I’ll never be able to live somewhere with such a tiny yard…

So we arrived in South Africa without any huge upsets. When we went to board in Johannesburg for the flight to London, we decided to try keeping the pram up until the gate this time. Big mistake! When we got to the gate, they told us to fold down the pram but the bloody thing wouldn’t fold down properly and wouldn’t stay folded (never buy a Peg Perego, worst pram ever!) and the flight attendants just stood next to us chatting while we tried to hold the Dude and deal with the pram, all in stuffy 30 degree heat because they don’t seem to understand what air conditioning is. Never again! The flight itself was pretty hellish too. It was the only leg we were flying with British Airways, and although my experience of them had previously been good, I was absolutely appalled at the service on this flight. The attendants were uncommunicative at best and downright rude at worst. The plane was prehistoric, like they’d spent all their money upgrading Business Class and had left Economy to wallow back in the 80s. We’d made the mistake of electing to get the bulk head seat which sounds fabulous but really it meant that neither of us could get up when the Dude was finally in the bassinet asleep. It also meant very little room, and although the leg room was slightly better for Mr C, the bassinet took up any spare room we had elsewhere, including that required for folding out the screens from our arm rests. At one point, for about two hours total, we did manage to get him to stay asleep in the bassinet  and it was luckily while we ate dinner, so that was awesome, although the food was pretty disgusting and they didn’t provide a meal for the Dude at all which I was pretty surprised about. Qantas provided excellent meals with fresh, often organic, healthy ingredients that I had no problem feeding the Dude.  Anyway, we both got to eat and watch something in peace, bliss! But other than that, the rest of the flight was awful. Dude was pissed off because it was an evening flight so he wanted to be asleep the whole time but couldn’t because it was so uncomfortable and the bassinet was so small that three-quarters of his legs hung over the side. They couldn’t get the temperature control right, and it was even worse than on a normal flight where you expect some temperature issues. For the major part of the flight, the bassinet was used as a shelf/holder for all our shit and we just sat there waiting to land, drifting in and out of consciousness. Getting into Heathrow was such a relief, even though it was 6am and bloody freezing. The Dude was absolutely shattered and finally did fall asleep on the drive up to Manchester.

Coming home from the UK, I realised, was going to be a bigger challenge, given we weren’t going to have a proper break and it would be one long flight the whole way there.  I think it was only about 20 hours actual flying time, with a 90 minute refuel at Singapore after 13 hours. This time, we didn’t choose the bulk head seat, but we got this weird position near where they serve the drinks but just one half row back from the emergency exit. So there were just two seats in front of us, but kind of out in the open. From my seat next to the window, I could get up and walk forwards and around the two seats in front without disturbing anyone, so that was great, although there weren’t many times when I was free to do this! The only downside of the seats was the lack of leg room for Mr C (which is his usual complaint anyway) and the screen folding out of the arm rest for me, which was quite tricky to do with 90cm of squirming toddler trying to get comfy on my lap. Thirteen hours straight is always going to be pretty hideous, but we tried to just go with the flow. The couple sitting in the odd seats in front of us clearly knew how good they had it in those seats and as they sat facing the air hostess on take off they got chatting and she agreed to serve them drinks first before anyone! They must have each had two or three drinks before we even got a first! So when it came time for ours, we didn’t muck about. We each ordered a bloody Mary and I got a sparkling water too. The food options were lamb or fish pasta, and as I hate lamb I went with the latter. I wolfed it down as Mr C held the tray for me and tried to stop the Dude kicking his meal which was balanced precariously on a ridiculously small tray table next to too many drinks. The woman next to him just sat there surly, trying to ignore us. I guessed she wasn’t having a good time. As I sipped my bloody Mary, after failing to eat the whole meal and guzzling my mineral water, I began to feel odd. I decided the alcohol was probably not a great idea and swapped for water. A few minutes went by and I felt no better, worse in fact. Over the next ten minutes or so, I began to realise I might be sick. I am not a vomity person, having really only thrown up from too much alcohol and morning sickness. So throwing up is a bit of a foreign concept for me and I denied I was feeling so queasy. That was a huge mistake! Eventually I said to Mr C that I think I’m going to be sick and I need to get up, but the Dude was fast asleep in my lap and it’d taken so long for him to settle down I didn’t want to move and wake him. I kept trying to breathe through it and convince myself I didn’t need to throw up. I realised quickly that I’d have to get up. Mr C offered me the sick bag and I waved it away in horror: surely only kids use them, I can’t throw up in a bag in front of the whole plane! I frantically looked around me, trying to formulate a plan, a way of getting the Dude off my lap without waking him. It was too late. I felt myself begin to spasm and motioned to Mr C, who had gotten up and was standing opposite me, to get a bag. I was holding the sick in my hand as he finally thrust a bag under my mouth. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever had to do! It felt like I filled up the entire bag but Mr C, so typically non-squeamish, just held the bag up and pushed my hair out of the way. I saw him hand it to the air hostess and I just closed my eyes and tried to become invisible. I needed to wipe my hands and mouth and just as I started looking about for someone, as Mr C had been commandeered by the air hostess for some reason, the girl in front came with a glass of water and a big pile of napkins. She was so lovely. I asked if she was a nurse and she said no, she wouldn’t have the patience. I thanked her over and over as she so kindly got me wet wipes from her bag. Mr C came back and helped get rid of all the soiled napkins. Dude had slept through the whole ordeal! The woman next to Mr C glared sullenly in our direction, but I didn’t hate her for it; that would have been me a few years ago.

I felt so much better after my little episode, and we flew on to Singapore, arriving into slightly uncomfortable humidity late at night to the wonder of modern civilisation that is Changi Airport. We were shattered. We took it in turns to chase the Dude around and stop him getting stuck on the travelators while the other freshened up and before we knew it, it was time to board the plane again for the last leg of seven hours to Sydney. It was at that point I vowed to myself I wouldn’t do this again with a toddler. He was totally out of himself, going from laughing hysterically to screaming like his arm had just been cut off! Even breastfeeding wasn’t really cutting it any more. He was exhausted but feeding to sleep just didn’t seem to be working, probably because there wasn’t a lot of quality milk after I’d thrown up all the fuel for that. I’d been trying to remember to take the Travel Flower Essence and Rescue Remedy Sleep drops I’d bought, and the small pump spray of deionised water I brought was an awesome way of freshening up, plus the Dude thought it was hilarious when we sprayed it in his face. That all helped, I’m convinced, but nothing can substitute for quality sleep and decent food. We staggered off the plane, lining up at border control in our different lines, as Mr C is still on a British passport (although we later discovered we all should have gone to the Aussie line). Like zombies, we collected bags, dragged ourselves out to a taxi and paid an exorbitant amount of money to get home, with a shameful stop at Maccas drive through on the way to get coffee and bacon and egg muffins. The jet lag was hideous, mainly due to sleep deprivation, but we were home. I said to Mr C that we won’t be doing that again for another few years at least, and happily gave him the green light to go home on his own whenever he wants. It’s great to go as a family, but the stress of long haul flying with the Dude is just too much. Needless to say, we all got sick towards the end and weren’t right for at least a week afterwards.

Next post in the series: co-sleeping on the move

Love and happiness

Here I am blogging at 10:03pm on New Year’s Eve. I wasn’t aware until a few hours ago but apparently this is the kind of thing that people with 19-month-olds do at New Year’s. I am, however, drinking a gin and tonic and have found an episode of Sex and the City to put on that I’ve seen a hundred million times. Party time or what?!

No, seriously, I must first apologise to anyone wondering (probably no one!) for not posting in a while. It was near impossible while we were overseas – no time and no computer – and since we’ve been back it’s just been go go go, Christmas and now New Year. Secondly, I’m planning a whole series of posts around our trip and all the topics around travelling with a young child, visiting family, being a tourist, being an expat and finding home all over again, so stay tuned for all that. I’m also thinking a lot about a lovely comment from an even lovelier friend, Ms Lulu, and where my blog is headed. I’m pretty bad at being organised and focused about marketing my blog, that’s not really my thing, but I would like to write more and I kind of hope it’s interesting. At least I’d like to make it more interesting. So I’m feeling better about my stream-of-consciousness style and I’m not shying away from ‘mummy’ posts about all things baby and child. As the Cranberries said, ‘everyone else is doing it so why can’t we?’

I won’t lie, it’s been a pretty full on year for us. I mean, let’s face it, it’s always full on with a baby, or a toddler, or kids in general really.  Life moves faster when it’s full. And although I’m almost certain that the pace of life and events in the last few years has all been about the arrival of the Dude (more of an explanation on that another time), it hasn’t made things easy for me, or for my relationship. Lack of time, money, control, they all create tension and angst. We’ve been working our butts off to keep things running smoothly in the relationship stakes recently, butting heads and doing it tough big time, but every time we manage to pull it together I am reminded of how lucky I am to have found The One. Love is always there, and that’s an amazing thing.

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A few weeks ago, I think soon after we got back from the UK, I went to write something on our shopping list, which involves a fantastic ‘stick a post-it on the pantry door’ system that we just love, and I noticed the uppermost item was ‘love and happiness’. Mr Chewbacca had written it. For some reason, maybe because it just didn’t need to be said, I never mentioned anything about it. I knew he knew I’d seen it, and so when I started the next list, I added ‘love and happiness’ back to the top. I haven’t spoken to Mr C about it yet and we’re three lists in but I think it’s going to be our mantra for 2013, like an affirmation. He’s started the next list and put it at the top again. I truly believe that if you repeat something enough, it becomes true. That’s not to say I’m going to sit around eating icecream and watching crappy tv reciting  ‘I’m in love and happy’ but I think the more we see those words, the more we’ll remember to live them. And let’s face it, those two things are everything. I’m not totally in agreement with John, you need more than love, but love is really the root of things, it covers so many bases and can totally change the way you experience life if you are in it or feeling it.

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So I propose that 2013 be infused with love and happiness, in as many shapes and forms it can exist. And now I’m going to hit publish, refresh my gin and tonic, and hope the Dude stays asleep through the loud party over the back fence, the bogans setting off their fireworks two streets over, and the idiots next door who leave their dog to bark right outside our open bedroom window. I’ll be back shortly (hopefully tomorrow) with my 2013 resolutions post.  Happy New Year!

I’m writing a book on my phone

The subtitle of this post should be: “How parenting a high needs child is completely at odds with being a writer”. I made the excuse a while ago that I hadn’t been blogging because I was busy transcribing my granddad’s memoirs. And that was true, a while ago. I got to the end of the first 90-minute recording which equated to about 10,000 words, and discovered that the other three even longer recordings are barely intelligible. I scoped out some software to fix the sound quality (turns out we already had it on the computer). But before I could do anything, the Dude decided to mix things up a bit. No more going down for sleeps! Therefore no more uninterrupted showers and no more computer time. We soon got the stroller on his first birthday so I’m now taking him for walks every day and he usually sleeps then. I’m pretty sure this is some kind of premature transition to one sleep a day. And he’s close to walking and talking, plus his molars are due any time now. So I can forgive him for being out of sorts.

The problem is, I can’t sit at the computer to write for more than ten minutes. He hates it! And that’s fair enough, in basically ignoring him. But the fact remains that I no longer get any writing time. I’m writing this on my phone. It’s frustratingly slow as I’m a touch typist so can more or less type fast enough to keep up with my brain.

I know this may be a short period, and it’ll pass soon enough, but I’m finding it very frustrating. I must have a dozen posts half written in draft, and all these ideas punching me in the head every day but I just don’t get any opportunity to write.

How do others tackle this? I guess the majority of people have babies who actually fall asleep fairly predictably.  Babies that calm down and relax when given a bedtime routine and lots of milk. Babies that don’t smack you across the head and then laugh within two minutes of waking up.

So instead of wallowing in misery (not really, slight exaggeration there), I’m going to think positively about this. Perhaps I’ll be the first person to write a 50,000 book entirely on a hand-held mobile device!  Imagine what Dickens or Tolstoy would think about that!  They’d probably think it was nonsensical and ridiculous. Aside from being confused as to how one can write a book on something the size of your palm. Technology is pretty cool, let’s face it, and I can safely say my iphone (actually Samsung Galaxy SII now) has saved my sanity millions of times while I lie for hours trying to get the Dude to stay asleep.

But the fact remains, parenting has gotten in the way of my writing, my passion.  And it’s not just general parenting, it’s the kind of child I have, his personality, mixed with the way I’ve chosen to parent.  Oh God, should I really say it, should I really attach that term to myself? Shit, I think I already did. Yes, Attachment Parenting.  I’d never heard of it until after I had the Dude, and frankly I thought it was all a bit of a wank.  Not the principles of AP per se, those make sense, but more that people are yet again being sheep and just going with a certain theory or way of doing things.  Of course many so-called AP parents will tell you that they just do what comes naturally and have fallen into the AP category.  I’m one of those.  And I actually refute the assertion that I’m AP.  It’s a label. We know how I feel about those.

I had the Dude at home, as readers of this blog may be aware, and I had no interventions in pregnancy and birth.  Well actually that’s a lie, I had three ultrasounds (all of them completely unnecessary) but yeah, no real interventions.  I’ve still never been to hospital in my life, apart from when I was born.  I plan on keeping it that way!  I don’t vaccinate my son, never been done myself actually. He has only ever drunk breastmilk and water.  We know about nutrition and natural ways of helping the body thrive. We don’t take drugs like paracetamol and ibuprofen. We like homepathics and they work for us.  Dude enjoys the ergo regularly, and previously enjoyed the Hugabub and even a ring sling for a short time. We generally like to avoid regular mainstream doctors as our experience has been that they have little idea what they’re talking about and recommend toxic chemicals that just cover up symptoms and don’t help the body heal. Oh and we co-sleep.  Now I’m sure I’ve said before, co-sleeping was not really my plan.  I was totally against it when my midwife first mentioned it, but once the Dude was here it was the only way I ever managed any sleep.  He’s a crazy dude.  His cot has been side-carted to our bed for the last nine months but he’s pretty much never slept in it.  Occasionally he’ll squirm into it half asleep and pass out there, usually with half his body still on the bed. But generally speaking, he is right next to me; taking up half the bed to himself. He’s beautiful and I love having him right there but I would LOVE to have my own bed again.  I am very touch sensitive and find it hard to be comfortable with someone right up next to me.  I even push my husband away when I’m going to sleep sometimes.  I like my space.  Which was the whole reason I had an issue with co-sleeping in the first place.

Anyway, because of this attachment style parenting we practise, and because the Dude is so full on, I don’t get a lot of time to myself. Now let’s be clear here: if I was into letting the Dude cry it out and leaving him in bassinets to go slowly insane or fobbing him off to childcare centres, I’d be in a worse situation.  Yes, okay, we might have more money because I might actually earn some, but the Dude would be miserable, we’d be sleep deprived and he’d probably be sick a lot. I’m sure about my choices. And I’m not asking for sympathy for them or for my predicament. I just think it’s ironic that I slacked off for so many years, sat around watching Seinfeld repeats and eating Sarah Lee Honeycomb and Butterscotch icecream instead of writing my heart out when I had the chance.  Things will change. This will pass. Before I know it this little crazy blonde dude currently sitting on the floor next to me destroying daddy’s uni notes will be asking for lifts to concerts and sneaking vodka from our liquor cabinet like we wouldn’t notice half a bottle of it slowly but regularly disappearing. The old ‘evaporation’ explanation never worked.