Baby crossed a few major milestones this summer. And while I’m sorry that I’m only now getting to catch up on them, the truth is I’ve not only been busy trying trying to enjoy them but also just trying to keep up with them. Literally.
When baby and I arrived at my parents’ house for July Fourth weekend, baby was a crawler. He was pulling himself up on furniture, creeping around the house from chair to chair, and pushing all his walker toys, but he was not what I would consider vertical. Then one day not too long after we arrived, he took the first step on his own. The next day he took three steps on his own. The day after that he took five steps on his own. And after that he was a walker.
I had no idea it would happen that fast. I thought it would be a much longer process, one where he would spend weeks only being able to take a couple steps before crashing. I thought for sure it would take a decent chunk of time to develop the muscle strength, coordination, and balance to be toddling around. Apparently not. By the time we were packed up Labor Day weekend to head home, baby could run.
And as fast as his chunky bow legs can carry him is clearly his preferred mode of transportation. This of course means that I also am doing a lot more running than I’m used to–even with the training that I’ve been doing to prepare for the Army Ten Miler next month. (Remember you can still donate; just click here before Oct. 3!) My mornings should start with “on your mark, get set, go” followed by the pop of a pistol because, from the second my alarm clock rings, it’s off to the races, the finish line being 7pm when my baby goes vertical to horizontal in his crib.
But as I say that, one thing occurs to me: My baby really isn’t much of a baby anymore. I’m not sure I like the sound of toddler–just yet.
As I wrote in my last post, I’ve loved becoming a mom and have counted my first year as one one of the happiest of my life. But as any mom can attest, it’s not always easy. But thank god mom’s also have moms; mine made my first year as a mom about more than just surviving it.
She was there from the very beginning with baby. She was ridding my closet of junk right up until the point where my contractions were so intense that I couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to go to the hospital. She sat with me all through baby’s birth and even cut his umbilical cord since dad wasn’t able to be there to do that himself. She stayed with me until it was clear baby and I could be on our own; we were going to be fine, but I remember never feeling so sad to say goodbye to her as when she left after baby was born.
Since then, she’s never stopped being the amazing support she was at the beginning. Even though we are far apart and she can’t physically help me when it would seem I need it most, she always finds a way to help make an impossible situation manageable. It’s easy when you’re feeling overwhelmed to forget to think yourself out of a spot, and I am grateful that she’s there to remind me of that.
For as much as I’ve appreciated my mom during this first year, I can say the same about my husband’s mom. Not only do I love how much she adores baby, but I would never have been able to keep up with some of my work if she didn’t think all her vacation days were well spent watching baby and taking care of our animals while I go to conferences.
And of course I count ourselves extremely lucky to still have both of my husband’s grandmothers in the picture to impart some of their wisdom on us as newbie parents.
So, I’m wishing all of them the happiest of Mothers Days today. Without them, this past year would have been immeasurably harder and a lot less fun. Thanks for being such great people to us. We love you beaucoup!
Baby and I have been repatriated after a wonderful 10 days in Chamonix, France. The weather was mostly more than cooperative, confirmed by a friend who said that both baby and I got some color on our faces; the food delicious (I am pretty sure I ate my weight in charcuterie, fromage, escargot, and soupe à l’oignon); and the company even better.
But I’m not going to lie, my travels with infant weren’t without their stresses. Just to give you an idea, my trip started out with me sitting in my car in what most certainly was the furthest parking lot from the airport terminal in a torrential downpour, debating whether I should wait the rain out or just suck it up and get soaked. Of course it had been 50+ degrees and partly sunny when I left the house, so my Gortex was happily packed in the bottom of my suitcase. I decided to crawl into the backseat and nurse baby while I debated my options. After 15 minutes and no signs of letting up–actually I think the rain started to cascade harder–I decided to just make a run for it.
Run is actually a funny word to use because as any mommy traveling by herself with infant knows, you’re not going anywhere fast. Not when you have a kid strapped to your front, you’re dragging a suitcase with your diaper bag that you’re pretending is also a purse hooked on top, and, in the other hand, you’re trailing a folded up umbrella stroller behind you. Did I mention the small, soft-sided cooler that I had slung over my shoulder? (Sadly, this is efficient for this stage in life.) If I didn’t feel pathetic enough, I certainly did after a man in a wheelchair tried to help me into an elevator. (True story.)
We lived to tell about it, that’s for sure, so that’s a good thing. And all the stress of the logistics of getting there and back were well worth the good times we had in France, so we’d no sooner book another mommy-and-me overseas adventure in a heartbeat. But all that’s not to say that I didn’t learn a few things. Here are my Top 11 travel tips for mommies traveling overseas with infants, particularly those traveling without an extra set of hands.
- Travel on off days. Seriously, if you are planning to have your baby on your lap, it’s worth the extra day of vacation that you will burn to travel on a slow travel day. I traveled out on Sunday and back on a Wednesday and had the luxury of an empty seat next to me on both flights. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say I don’t now I could have done it otherwise, particularly on the return flight, which was 9 hours in the middle of the day, without that luxury. At nine months old, he was crawling and squirming all over the place, so it was fantastic to be able just strap him into the seat, throw the tray table down, and give him a few toys.
- Don’t try to travel like you’re still in college. This means forget the whirlwind tours; don’t try to do three cities in a week. Just pick a really good place that you can make home base and take day trips from there. It’s hard to think like that when there are so many new places to explore, but it will be a more enjoyable trip if you can actually relax and aren’t trying to cram baby into your sightseeing schedule.
- Opt for the apartment. If you’re going to be someplace for a week or more, consider renting an apartment over staying in a hotel. Just having access to laundry machines and a kitchen are worth it, even if it costs a bit more, which often isn’t the case. The random three diaper blowouts my kid had in a single day underscored this for me. Plus, many property managers will include things like portable cribs (with bedding), high chairs, and even strollers, if requested. (Score!)
- High chairs are an issue.We may be used to every Applebee’s, TGIFriday’s, and Ruby Tuesday’s having highchairs galore, it’s not that way in Europe. I was pleasantly surprised by how many restaurants in
Chamonix actually had high chairs, but the quality, safety, appropriateness, and availability of them were most often in question. For this reason, I packed my trusty Phil and Ted’s Me Too portable high chair. This thing is seriously awesome. It hooks on to nearly every table or counter top with a pair of heavy-duty clamps, is really sturdy, and it packs flat. (Bonus!) Of course, the one time I really, really needed it, the table top was too thick so it wouldn’t hook on, which brings me to No. 5…
- Never underestimate the power of the scarf.I don’t care what
Big scarfs are the best
season you’re traveling in, bring a big, long scarf, if you are traveling with a baby. (Think the size of a pashmina.) Not only are they chic, but I used mine as a pillow, a nursing wrap, a blanket for baby when the wind suddenly kicked up, and even as a child restraint in a high chair where the risk of him slipping through the bottom was high thanks to a lack of safety straps or anything close to resembling them. (Let’s just say a shopping cart seemed more secure.)
- Don’t expect your baby to stick to his normal schedule. Jet lag is really hard on the wee ones. For example, we were dealing with a six hour time difference and my bundle of boy started out going to sleep around his normal time (local), but then slept until nearly noon the next day. For three days in a row. By the eighth day, he was waking up around 9:30am (local), which was two hours later than his “normal” wake up. Feel free to disagree, but trying to sightsee with a cranky baby doesn’t sound like much fun to me, so I say let them sleep and do what you can when they can.
- Dare to deviate on the nap schedule. This tip runs along the same lines as No. 6. I know this is hard for some super-regimented moms to even fathom, but I’ll just be blunt and say that if you’re that kind of mom and still want to travel (and have fun), you had better loosen up. I don’t know about you, but I find that part of the fun of traveling is eating. But trying to have dinner at 7pm or 8pm at a restaurant with a jet lagged baby who normally is in bed at 7pm (remember other cultures don’t necessarily serve an early-bird special) poses some meltdown challenges. So, to have a more enjoyable meal out, I would feed, bathe, and pajama baby as usual, but him down early–like at 6pm. I’d let him nap until 7:30pm or so, then pack him up and put him in the stroller and take him to the restaurant with us. Be sure to pack plenty of snacks or make good use of the bread basket and, above all, stay close to home base in case there’s a real meltdown that requires you to book on home.
- Have fun with food.This is sort of a takeoff on No. 7, but enjoying
new foods shouldn’t just be a traveling perk for you. So, don’t bring all the food or diapers or wipes that you could possibly need for a week or 10 days. It’s not worth the work of carrying all that stuff, especially when you are traveling alone. Just bring enough to get you through a few days until you can buy stuff on site. Not to mention when you buy locally, you can introduce your baby to some new flavors. Just check out what the French consider appropriate for those babies 6+ months: apples with kiwi and pineapple, couscous with veggies, and salmon with rice and green veggies. My kid also downed a few croissants and Petit Beurres, which are wonderful French delectables.
- Bring hand sanitizer. I won’t go into details, but I’ll say that you
Nasties no more
shouldn’t expect Baby Koala changing stations wherever you go. I went into one public restroom that advertised a baby changing station and came out within 30 seconds, telling my mom and aunt that I would rather have my kid sit in his own feces for another hour+ than change him in that bathroom.
- Yes, you will be able to use the bathroom on the plane. So, the en-route changing station question isn’t that big of a deal. There will be one bathroom near you on the plane that has a changing station, if not every bathroom on the plane. (It’s above and behind the toilet.) It’s small (my kid barely fit on it), but it’ll get the job done. The real issue when traveling with infant is what you are going to do when you need to go to the bathroom but baby doesn’t need a diaper change. On my outbound flight, I had one very nice woman across the aisle from me (three kids of her own) ask me if I wanted her to hold the baby so I could go the bathroom. I’m not going to lie. This sounded very tempting, after having tried one strategy earlier where I kept the changing station down with the baby on top and held him while I tried to bend and scoot underneath to do my business. (Not recommended.) But for as good as that sounded, honestly, I didn’t know how it would look if I just handed my baby over to a stranger. (She did seem nice and where was she going to go?) I declined and tried a different strategy. Yes, I actually sat him on the floor of the airplane restroom. He was fine–turns out the toilet paper is right at eye level and can be pulled out and ripped up very easily–but I was pretty much disgusted with the fact that my kid was on the floor of a nothing more than a slightly less stinky PortaJohn. (This is why you need to heed No. 9.) But these are the types of choices you will have to make, so just try not to let germs ruin your vacation.
- Let people help you. For people like me, who are used to not only doing things their way but doing them completely on their own, this is a tough one. But it’s important to realize that, when traveling with an infant, letting someone share your burden doesn’t mean you are a failure. So, let that really nice, generous person who offers to carry your diaper bag on or off the plane do it. Everyone knows you can do it, but why not save yourself a little bit of effort?
2010 was a year full of firsts for our family. My husband and I became parents for the first time in May and every day since then has yielded some sort of new discovery for baby, us, or both. But as cheesy or cliche as it sounds, baby’s first Christmas was definitely an awesome way to close out a year of most memorable firsts.
It was hard to resist the temptation to go big or go home for baby’s first Noel, but I think the family exercised a decent amount of restraint. Baby got a pair of booties from the maman, a hysterical dinosaur hat from Auntie Kate and Uncle Nick, bath toys from Mimi and Grandfather Condor, blocks and a toy from Poppa, and a Redskins warm-up suit from who else but the Papa–and a whole lot of wrapping paper. We figured he’d get a little more out of the whole Christmas event next year.
Even though baby was too young to get into the whole Santa and presents thing, he made Christmas so much more fun for all of us adults. I mean, who can really resist a baby with a set of reindeer antlers? He was full of smiles and giggles and totally into whatever anyone else was into–be it a magazine, a napkin, or a bowl of olive tapenade, as caught on video.
The fact that he was in a mostly good mood was amazing because he was teething in a bad way. Not only were his top front teeth coming in to match the bottom two that came in nearly three months ago, but his incisors were totally busting through the gums as well. Needless to say there was no shortage of references to that horrendous Christmas song, All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.
And that actually ended up happening. By Christmas Eve, baby had two big front teeth and a nice gap in between that my husband is sort of stressing about. By New Year’s Eve, he had an additional two sharp points poking through his gums where his incisors will eventually be.
But all teeth aside, this holiday season was so great thanks to baby. As my husband would say, he added a little je ne sais quoi to our normal holiday traditions. But the best part is knowing that next year will be even better because he’ll enjoy it even more.