Flightmares, time differences, and a little holiday

The flight-mares have begun. In fact, they begun quite some time ago. Taking a 13-month old to the other side of the world in a plane filled with other people who probably just want to get some sleep fills me with dread. So we’re having a practice run next week.

Well, we’re not going all the way to England, and we’re not getting on a plane just to experience the sheer hell of travelling with a mobile baby, but we are having a bit of a holiday-trial.

Earlier this year, in a moment of careless disregard for our financial situation, I booked us a ridiculously over-priced holiday. There were lots of reasons to do this, and apart from the idea of putting the Little Mister on a plane, the only reason against booking the trip was that neither of us really have much of an income at the moment. (But, look, I’m doing a little work like this here.)

So, we’re off to Australia. Despite living here in Godzone for seven years, I’ve never been, and I thought it was probably time to get there before we return to England in January. Tony has three sisters on the Gold Coast, and so what better place to take ourselves? The Little Mister will get to meet his aunties, uncles and cousins, and we will get to have a good old-fashioned family catch up. We’re staying in luxury (or so it appears from the brochure) and I can satisfy my craving for genuinely warm weather, a splash about in the sea and a very nice hotel pool (with cute separate kiddy pool) to make up for arriving in London in the dark depths of winter.

The holiday too was a surprise father’s day “gift” from the Little Mister to his dad, so of course, there didn’t really need to be any other justification for it. (Not only was it Tony’s first father’s day, but the present also takes care of a rather large birthday in a couple of weeks time.)

So, super holiday in the sun, here we come. But wait, it’s not like it used to be. Throw beach dresses and hat in suitcase, drink some wines on the plane, and spend five days behaving like there’s nothing in the world to trouble the soul. That kind of holiday, I fear, is long gone.

The only trip we’ve done with the Little Mister was up to Auckland when he was not even four months old. Of course he was a dream on the plane – any hint of a grimace and I fed him. It’s different now. This boy has places to go. How on earth is he going to sit on my lap for four hours?

It’s not only the confined space that worries me. It’s the timing of it all. Our flight is at 7am. Way to start the day, then, by waking up my sleeping child, bundling him into a taxi before dawn breaks, driving for less than ten minutes, and then expecting him to fall back to sleep at the airport for a bit. That’s before we even board. I have worries too about take off and landing. Will giving him a bottle help his ears? What if he doesn’t want one?

Then there’s the time difference. Should I start trying to make him go to bed later each night now – we still have ten days to go? And once we are there, will he sleep anyway given it’ll be a strange place? Recently he’s not been so keen on new, unfamiliar places….

At least its only a few hours on the plane, the time difference isn’t too bad, and we’re only away for five days. I’m sure he’ll be a trooper. It’ll be  our first overseas holiday as a family of three, and we might not relax in the way that we used to while abroad, but I’m sure we will have an extra special time because this is how life is now. We’ll just try to forget the plane journey very quickly. And after all, it is only the practice run.

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Wonder Week 42

BEHIND that little serious face, I’m sure there’s lots going on. I can see it in his eyes when he listens intently to new noises – what are they, where are they coming from? I can see it in his face when he sees new things and watches them closely to figure them out.

Physically, all that’s new each day is obvious. Today, in the blink of an eye, the Little Mister pulled himself up to standing and cruised along the side of his change table shelf so he could reach a bag of cotton wool he had his eye on. Crawling? Been there, done that. The last few days have been all about getting onto the soles of his feet – even if  sometimes his hands are still on the floor.

But along with all this amazing learning and figuring out that’s happening, there is of course the other side of the coin. It’s wreaking havoc with his sleep.

We thought the Little Mister was getting better. He’s been sleeping from at least 7 -7, and with quick wake-ups at about 10.30pm and 5am, nights recently have been better than we’ve had in ten months. And this lovely long night often follows two day sleeps of well over an hour. So of course it all had to change – we were getting too used to the routine.

The Little Mister is so desperate to stand up, that he’s taken to practicing how to do it in his sleep. Still asleep, he sits up in his cot. Thanks to our video monitor, Hal, I can see it all happen. He the either a, tries to stand up and wakes himself up by banging his head on the cot bars; b, falls forward while still asleep and wakes himself up as his head hits the mattress or cot bars; or c, sways for a while and rubs his eyes before lying back down on his tummy and starting the process again ten minutes later.

I’m not a big fan of all the baby books, the ones which make you feel generally inadequate or like you’re doing it wrong because you feed the baby too often/don’t sleep with him in your bed etc etc. But, the theory behind the Wonder Weeks is making a lot of sense at the moment. The idea is that all babies go through certain milestones at around the same time (from conception, not birth date). When they reach these milestones, their sleep is often thrown out of whack while their little brains process all the stuff they’ve got going on. Sounds like exactly what’s going on in  our house. We’re bang on wonder week 42. Apparently the Little Mister’s sleep could be thrown out of kilter for WEEKS. (At which point I will spend my days curled up in an exhausted huddle on the floor while he plays around me.)

Mother nature has come to the party of week 42 tonight by shining an amazingly full harvest moon over our skies. Thank you, moon, thank you. Please wane quickly.

As for the Little Mister, he will just keep on taking his time to figure out the world around him. Hopefully, this big developmental milestone will soon require less and less processing at night, and he’ll get back to having the precious shut-eye he needs.

 

Dear Mama: Some advice

Dear Mama, I’d like to help you. I think you’ve been struggling a bit with meal times, so here goes.

I’m nearly ten months old now, and, sorry to say it, but you’ve been a bit slow at figuring out this whole solids thing. You might remember (I do) that you first tried to give me some baby rice cereal when I was five months. Luckily for both of us, you figured out pretty quick there was no way I was going to eat any of that grown-up-like-food-stuff and you stopped trying for a while. (Lucky too that you realised baby rice cereal is awful and should only ever be offered in miniscule quantities mixed with lots of pear.)

After a bit of a break, you tried again. I’m not sure why you did this. I like bottles of milk just fine. Sometimes you could warm them up a bit more, but generally, they’re just fine.

You might remember (I do) that when I was eight months old I stopped fighting you so hard. I had to give it to you mama, your persistence was impressive. You’d sit me down every day and try and feed me with a soft blue spoon. Meanwhile, you’d tease me by using a metal spoon yourself. Didn’t you realise how good that would feel on my gums?

I tried really hard to show you how much I wasn’t ready to eat. I clamped my lips shut, turned as far away as I could from the spoon, and squirmed in my high chair. Sometimes I’d shout. Most times you didn’t get it.

But, as I said, after eight months, I gave in a little to your persistence.

Since then, we’ve made quite a lot of progress. For example, you’ve learnt that velcro-fastening bibs are a waste of time because I can get pull them off easily. You’ve also clicked that there’s no point starving me of milk, it doesn’t mean I’ll eat more grown-up-like-food-stuff. I think too that you’ve relaxed a bit about it all and now you give up sooner when I’m not going to eat. (Even though you took me to the doctor because you were so worried about me puking up all the time. I think you got the message from him though, that there’s no need to be neurotic and I’m just doing this on my time.)

But there’s still a whole lot of stuff you’re still not getting. Like finger food or anything actually solid: I will gag on it and throw it up. Why don’t you just stop giving it to me? And cleaning the high chair. Why do you spend so long doing it? I don’t care, you know, if the remainder of my last seventeen meals are caked onto its edges. I’m still not going to eat them. Instead of cleaning, you could be playing toys, or crawling, with me.

Then there’s the vegetables. This is where you really need help. I know you steam them up with apricots. I hear the scary blender sometimes when I’m trying to sleep. Just so you know, I can still taste the vegetables through the apricots.

Recently, you’ve started giving me banana and weetabix in the morning for breakfast. That’s ok, I can handle that. But please remember, as soon as I turn my head away from the spoon and drop my toys off the side of my high chair, mealtime is over. And please don’t forget to pick up my toys for me. Somedays mealtime will be over after one mouthful. Somedays I’ll eat a third of a banana. Just watch me closely for clues about which day it’s going to be.

But here’s the most important bit mama, and this is the bit that’s going to help you. When I’m ready, I’ll eat. Just like all those other babies we see at playdates, who eat toast and carrots and pasta, I’ll eat. For now though, no more doctors, no more sighs at the breakfast bar and hanging your head with sad eyes, and no more kumara and apricot flavoured meat and vegetables. Let’s just wait til I’m ready.

Lots of love and opened-mouthed kisses mixed with raspberries,

Milin Charlie xxx

 

 

Leaving Godzone

THE BALANCE has been paid, the tickets are ours, and we’re off to England. Not yet, because of course we are no-way-near ready, but in a month not far away.

So, we will leave Godzone, for six months, six years, forever – we don’t know. We will go to a place where children don’t walk to school. Where parents must pass through security and metal detectors to get into their child’s classroom. Where teachers can’t hug their pupils. We will go to a place where the Little Mister will be surrounded by cousins, great aunties and uncles, family. Europe will be a hop skip and jump away, with its castles, ruins, history and stories. We will leave our big house and garden from where we can walk to the shops, the swings, the city, the sea, the zoo. We will leave this place as the barbecues of summer still sizzle, and we will wrap the Little Mister in merino and down jackets and shield his face from the biting cold that is the English winter. We will, next year, decorate a tree while the ground outside is frosty, the nights come early, and the fairy lights twinkle from late afternoon. We will visit Christmas markets, go to see the windows and lights in town, and later make a snowman with a big orange carrot for a nose.

We will spend the next few months running around trying to get ready to say goodbye. We will cry when we hug and kiss those we love here. We will pack boxes while he sleeps, scrub window panes while he plays, and call packing companies and letting agents when he is distracted. We will worry about money, about jobs, about our new life. We will worry whether we are doing the right thing. We are doing it all for the Little Mister.

Who, by the way, had his passport photo taken. This, my darling Little Mister, looks more to me like a photo of you about to start school at four. When did you get so grown up?

Coffee and Groceries

Today, I caught up with my antenatal group over coffee and cake, and, after the Little Mister’s nap, I went to the supermarket. Or, looked at another way, I did this:

  • Built a fort. Yep, for the first time since I was very young, I built a fort in the living room. This entailed pulling the swabs off the sofa, ignoring the crumbs down the side that need hoovering (because the Little Mister is afraid of the hoover so it only comes out when he is away or asleep), and constructing the perfect climbing fortress for new adventures. My teeny crawling boy has figured out that climbing up things and pulling himself up to standing is super fun. So, for hours today, that’s what he got to do in our transformed little living room. It was a pretty awesome peek-a-boo venue.
  • Talked to him the entire way around the supermarket, despite people looking at me like I was crazy. The supermarket is one of the Little Mister’s favourite places. There are a whole load of kids he can smile at, a whole load of women who pull funny faces at him, and he gets pushed around while looking at all these exciting new things. I’m not crazy for talking to him, he loves it, and I reckons he gets what I’m saying. (Stuff like, wasn’t it so nice of that man to climb up on the ladder for us to get your formula because there was none left on the shelf.)
  • Paid work. Well, kind of. I didn’t actually do any work today, but it was nice to see some published here.
  • Scored a massive win by convincing the Little Mister to eat two tablespoons of fruit yoghurt mixed with rice cereal. (Even though he didn’t want/enjoy it.) And, although this would have in itself constituted a majorly successful day, I also got a teeny bit of chicken into him by mixing it with LOTS of banana. It made up for his total rejection of carrots and parsnips. So, he almost got all his food groups from solids today, for the first time ever.
  • Took the Little Mister to hang out with other babies his age. He’s getting a little scared by other babies sometimes, so it’s good for him to be around them. He didn’t hang out on the rug with all the toys and little ones much, and he kept crawling towards the front door when it opened, but hopefully there were some important social skills being learnt. We’re still working on being brave.
  • Made sure the little boy had two very longs naps and got to bed on time after a fun splash-a-mayhem bath and lots of books. Not only did he get to rest, recover, and process all the learning he’d done, but I got to bake, clean, work, and catch up on some real news (politics).

Not bad for a day where I went out for coffee and picked up some groceries.

 

White Chocolate and Banana Muffin Goodness

OFTEN in a bowl on the kitchen bench, are a bunch of very ripe bananas. Next to them there’s also usually half a banana still in its skin. Its other half has been mashed and offered up to the Little Mister – to reject or eat a very small amount of as he sees fit.

Through the winter, once we realised the Little Mister would eat bananas more often than any other food we gave him, the unmashed half or three quarters went on our porridge. But it’s summer now, and we keep getting half peeled bananas sitting on the bench for too long. So, I channeled my inner domestic goddess today and decided not only to find a way to use up these endless half bananas, but also to start trying to use up some of the pantry fodder I’d rather we have already consumed than throw out come leaving day.

Lucky Auntie Jane just arrived as the result was pulled out of the oven, and Tony soon came home to a kitchen filled with the yummy smell of baking. After a cuppa, I pondered freezing some of the banana and white chocolate muffins we’d had, but both of my guinea pigs said there wouldn’t be much point – they would be eaten before we needed to think about freezing them. Test passed.

But just as important as being scrumptious and a successful way to use up bananas, the muffins were super quick. From getting the ingredients off the shelf to pulling them out of the oven, they took less than half an hour. So, while the Little Mister slept, I had time to bake delicious treats, have some lunch, drink two cups of tea, empty and unload the dishwasher, wash and sterilise his bottles, do the baking dishes, clean the kitchen, sit down and have a natter with Auntie Jane, and revel in my momentary incarnation as a domestic deity. They’re basically the perfect recipe:

White chocolate and banana goodness

2-and-a-half ripe bananas

125ml rice bran oil

2 eggs

250g high grade white flour

100g brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

175g white chocolate melts, buttons or chips

Mix flour, sugar, and baking soda.  Beat the egg and oil together, and add it to the mix. Mash the bananas and add them in too. Mix. Stir through the chocolate. Spoon the mixture into 15 muffin cases and bake for 20 mins on 200 degrees. Bask in domestic goddess vibes for rest of they day.

I found a version of the recipe on this blog here which also used a teaspoon of baking powder. Oops, I forgot to add it in – but they were still delish.

Enjoy x

Having It All

AFTER years of working late, putting extra pressure on myself to do better, secretly trying to outdo my colleagues and calculating which moves would help me get ahead – I’ve given it all up. It’s been two weeks since I worked my last shift on the newsdesk, two weeks since I logged in, two weeks since I agonised over what would make the front page, two weeks since I sat around a table at a meeting, and two weeks since I went in to the office.

I’ve not shared stories with workmates about the weekend, I’ve not worn my court shoes, I’ve not joined in any group email banter laughing about some aspect of our job, and I’ve not lowered my voice while making a cup of tea and gossiping with another journo.

Since the Little Mister was four months old, I’ve only been working two days a week. But by resigning, I’ve given up something more than the paychecks.

Of course I agonised over quitting. I don’t quit. After years of manouevring, I was finally moving along the path I had planned, and I was making my way along it nicely. Of course, I thought before he was born, I could have it all.

When he was four months and I went back to the office, it hit us all hard. For two days a week, he went on hunger strike. Every week. He screamed at Tony. A lot. His weight kept dropping until he nearly fell of the chart and Plunket made us keep going back for weigh ins. He started waking every two hours through the night, my hungry baby.

My entire week was consumed by trying to express enough milk to leave for him. We all got more and more tired and stressed. But it never felt like we weren’t coping. We were all, I still believe, getting so much out of it.

Tony was able, twice a week, to look after his four month old son completely on his own. He got him to eat (eventually), he got him to nap, he bathed him, played with him, put him to sleep, sang songs with him, shared precious cuddles, and was the best dad in the world.

He became the Little Mister’s favourite person. Our little boy was so lucky to get this amazing one-on-one time – and they learnt so much about each other while I wasn’t there. I got to keep on moving along that work path I’d been carving out, and I loved it. Even though I was exhausted, I so enjoyed those two days of being among adults in that other world.

Still, on those mornings before work, I had to perform a feat that surpassed winning the Krypton Factor just to make it on time. Planning ahead and taking packed lunch and dinner to the office had never been so hard as in these months when we seemed to have no time to cook, or eat – unless it was takeaway or toast. I would try desperately to feed the Little Mister up before I left incase he decided to go without for the next nine hours. His naps were carefully orchestrated so he’d be due a very long one when Tony took over.

Tony would get home (or meet me at work) at a speed faster than lightning and each week we performed the miracle of getting out of the door by 12.36pm. There was the odd stretch of the truth that ensured he had Friday afternoon off, we called in favours, played sympathy cards, and did whatever it took for me to get to work without us putting the Little Mister in daycare.

I fed him in the work car park, in the health nurse’s room, in the empty office on our floor because I was running out of time to get the newslist done. Tony walked around and around Wellington with him so he would stop crying and sleep through his hunger. I spent the shift planning when I’d get a chance to express, carried sterilised equipment round in my handbag, always made sure the unused fridge was plugged in, and was careful to hold my bag upright in the taxi home. I experienced infections, discomfort, pain that only a working, breastfeeding woman can know.

Finally, logistically, it got too hard. If we didn’t want to do daycare, and if Tony was to keep studying and needing those working hours, we couldn’t keep on. Even when the Little Mister finally realised formula would fill him up in a way his shattered mama was getting less and less able to do, even when he started sleeping a little better, we couldn’t keep on with this life.

I don’t feel like I’ve quit wanting it all. Maybe right now my definition of “it all” has changed. In these two weeks, he’s suddenly gone down to one wake up at night. He’s started crawling. He’s lengthened his naps to two decent stints. We’re in our routine, seven days a week. I’m not checking work emails on my phone while feeding him at night. I’m not glued to the headlines at what also seems to be storytime most nights. Is it making a difference?

I love my new working week, which is spent doing my very best for the Little Mister. I do miss my old working week, but when he’s a little older, I think we will find a way to marry the two. Somehow.

I have given up what I’d worked for. But part of that is because we’ve decided to move to London and be with our family there so they can share these special years with us.

I no longer believe you can have it all, at least not the “all” I once wanted. The “all” has now shifted – and I’m still not quite sure what it is. When I figure that out, maybe then I’ll figure out a way of having something close to it.