Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Intrepid Son!

My son can sometimes be a little bit nervous, and even afraid, of the strangest things.  For instance, lately he's developed a paralysing fear of the sort of fold-down baby changing tables you find in public toilets.  These days I find my heart sinking into my shoes if he fills his nappy while we're out and about as I know that if I can't find a handy area of floor to change him on, there's going to be a major meltdown.

While he's absolutely fearless about some things (riding his push-along motorbike at terrifying speeds for instance), he's nervous around dogs, distressed by the shower and positively traumatised at the prospect of going into the swimming pool unless he is fully glued to my side.

Last summer, we worked hard to overcome his nerves in my parents' pool but, while he was happy to play on the step at the edge of it, he never really warmed to the idea of getting immersed.  I took him swimming a few times after we came home, but he truly hated it and, as our local pool has a one-adult-per-child policy and I had two toddlers, it really was difficult to go unless I could persuade someone to come with us.

So this year, I've been amazed to see him gradually getting bolder and bolder in the pool, moving away from the step and trying some of the pool toys.  Then my 11-year-old nephew came to play in the pool.  He is like a fish!  Swimming, diving, splashing about with the rings and toys.  OB was entranced watching him and then, all of a sudden, he was floating around in the middle of the pool, unsupported in a rubber ring!

And that hasn't been the end of the adventurousness as today we've scaled the climbing wall and mastered the brand new balance bike!  Months after the adoption was finalised, I can still hardly believe that I'm getting to savour these little achievements with my son!

Shared with The Adoption Social's #MemoryBox

Saturday, July 27, 2013


We are on holiday, finally!  And it is hot, hot, HOT!  We've spent long, lazy days by the pool . . . actually mostly in the pool trying to keep cool as the thermometer dances its way up to the high 30s each day.  It doesn't get much cooler at night either - the thermometer in the living area said 32 degrees just after I put OB to bed!  There are fans blasting away everywhere.

Thankfully, as long as OB has the pool to play in and his hat on, the heat doesn't seem to bother him too much.  He's his usual lively self, running around constantly, in and out of the water, riding his push-along motorbike at some significant speed, and generally amusing us all with his antics. 

Of course, there is the flake-out every afternoon  . . .

So glad that, for us, holidays mean visiting OB's beloved grandparents, so we are spared some of the difficulties that adopted children can face when travelling away from the familiar.  For us, it's just swapping one set of familiar faces and places with another.

Happy days!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tips for Flying with your Baby or Toddler

With my close family all living abroad, I've had plenty of opportunities to experience the pleasures and pitfalls of flying with babies and toddlers.  Mercifully all of our flights have been short-haul, but as a single carer, sometimes with two under-3s in tow, getting through the travelling without too many tears has certainly been a challenge!

As we are preparing to fly again in just a couple of days, I've been thinking through my top tips for managing the journey.

1.  Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!

A couple of weeks before our trip, we start talking about planes, getting out the toy planes and setting up plane-style seating for role-play.  We've all been on a flight with children whose behaviour has made us crazy, but if we don't let our children know what behaviour we expect from them, then we're setting them up for failure and asking for a stressful trip for ourselves!  We talk through the major aspects of getting on the plane in story-style - first we go up the steps, then we find our special seats, then we put our straps on . . . etc. etc.  My two-year-old is quite capable of telling me how to behave on a plane!  We have also placed the dining chairs in a row like plane seats and practised sitting on them without kicking the chair in front!  A preparatory day-trip to the airport is also useful if it's not too far away, as are plane-themed books.

2.  Seat Selection

Children over 2 have to have their own seat, and sit on it for take off and landing.  Some airlines allow you to take a car seat for children under 2, in which case you'll need to buy a seat for them anyway.  I've never done this, so I can't comment on how easy/difficult it is, but for long-haul flights I can see that it might be better than having a baby on your knee all the way.  If you are travelling with a budget airline, you might find it actually works out cheaper to buy a seat for your under-2 so that they get their own baggage allowance, as paying for extra baggage can be very costly.
There are restrictions on where toddlers can sit (not near the emergency exit, etc.) so you won't get a free choice of where to sit, but if you sit nearer the back, you'll be nearer the toilets, and you can use the extra aisle space around there for standing and rocking your baby if you need to.
If there are two of you travelling with a baby on your knee, consider choosing seats A and C in a row.  It's unlikely that anybody will want to sit in B if they can possibly help it, so if the flight's not busy you might get a row to yourselves.  If not, the person in B will surely have no problem swapping seats so that you can sit together.  As I travel alone, I prefer to put the active toddler in the window seat with myself in the middle, and some poor, unsuspecting person on the aisle.  That way the little one can 'roam around' the seat without annoying a stranger but I'm not worried that he'll be continually trying to escape up the aisle.  

3.  New Toys

I always buy a few special new toys and books before we travel, ready to produce them from my bag with a big 'Ta-daaa' when the little ones are getting restless.  Avoid anything that has small parts that could get repeatedly dropped on the floor - it's hard work bending down to get your toddler's dropped items when you have a baby strapped onto your knee!  One of our new toys for next week's flight is a small doodle pad that is attached to a plastic board with crayons that clip onto the side.

4.  Snacks

These can be another great distraction when things are getting fraught.  Again, mess-free items are best, as are things that are fiddly and take a long time to eat.  One of my favourites are little boxes of raisins as it takes quite a while to eat them one by one and my toddlers have always enjoyed the challenge of getting them out of the box.  Remember that you won't be able to take their drinks through security, so bring empty drinks cups to fill up on the other side.  I'm always pretty generous with snacks as buying food on budget flights can be expensive, and if the flight is delayed then you don't want to find yourself with no food at mealtime.  If you're spoon-feeding, bring a plastic spoon, and remember that containers of pureed food count as liquids - you can bring just enough for the flight, but you may be asked to open it and taste it.

5.  The Buggy

I find the buggy an incredibly useful item at the airport, even if my toddler wouldn't normally need it.  My old system pram was hard work travelling because it was hard to put up and down while holding a baby, and bulky and heavy to lift onto the security conveyor.  A lightweight buggy is ideal and much easier to handle.  If you normally use a sling, take it anyway, but there are advantages to having a pram as well.  On all the airlines I've travelled with, the buggy or pram comes in addition to your baggage allowance, so there's no weight disadvantage in bringing it.
Our local airport fast-tracks prams and buggies through security, saving a lot of queuing time and, when there's a long time to wait in departures, putting a toddler in the buggy reduces the stress considerably as you can go browse the shops or watch the planes without worrying about them running off somewhere.
You can usually take it right up to the aircraft on boarding, and depending on the airport and the gate you are using for arrivals, you may be able to get it delivered to the aircraft when you land.  It's worth checking this though - it can't always be done, and I have had the experience of landing at 10pm, no buggy waiting, and having to drag two half-sleeping two-year-olds a considerable distance across the airport to baggage reclaim.  But despite this experience, I'd still always take a lightweight buggy.

6.  Milk and Bottles

You can take bottles of prepared baby formula through security.  You may be asked to drink a little to prove what it is.  I prefer to take bottles of sterilised water and carry the formula powder separately - I don't drink formula if I can possibly avoid it!  I've never been asked to drink the water.  Alternatively, you can just take enough milk to get you through security and then buy the ready-made cartons from Boots on the other side for the rest of the trip.  Personally, I always get my babies used to room temperature milk as soon as possible after they are placed with me - if you can do this, it makes feeding on the go so much easier.  I take a bottle or a cup with a teat-like top filled with water for my toddlers as sucking up the drink helps them with ear pressure problems.  Lollipops also work for this! 

7.  Nappies, Pull-ups and Toilet Trips

I know everybody's opinion varies on this, but when I'm travelling with barely-trained toddlers, I put them in pull-ups.  I simply can't contemplate dealing with an accident in the confined space of an aircraft  (or sitting on a wet seat for two hours!), and carrying a couple of spare pull-ups is easier than carrying spare sets of clothes (for your child and yourself!).  Having said that, I usually plan at least one toilet trip during our flight simply because it kills a little time, gives us all chance to stretch our legs, and gives the people seating near us a welcome break from my little ones for a few minutes!  Change nappies just prior to getting on the plane.  If you have to change your baby on the plane, you might find it easier to strip them down to their nappy before you go to the toilet as the space is incredibly limited.  If it's just a wet nappy, consider staying in your seat and changing on your knee.

8.  Safety

There are a few aspects of airplane travel that can be somewhat unsafe for wobbly toddlers.  My worst area is baggage reclaim where toddlers are infinitely fascinated by the carousel and all the luggage going round on it and it's all I can do to stop them going on for a ride!  If we haven't got the buggy at the aircraft, then we're unlikely to get it before I have to start handling the baggage, so I have used reins when travelling with more than one toddler.  I'm not keen on them as a rule, but I only have one pair of hands and sometimes the principle of 'staying safe' trumps all other concerns!

9.  Handling Baggage

When travelling alone with a pram, especially a double buggy that needs two hands for pushing, handling baggage as well can be quite a challenge.  When I need to take two pieces of hold baggage, I take one large backpack that I can wear on my back hands-free, and one large suitcase that is on four wheels.  The four-wheeled ones are extremely easy to manoeuvre, and I tend to hook the pull handle over the pram handle and let it drag along behind us.  We manage quite well like this.
Budget airlines are quite strict on baggage and hand luggage, but remember that if you are paying for your child's seat then they get an allowance too - I always take 'their' hand luggage as well as my own, but I fill both bags with things I will need for the journey (or things that can't be packed in the baggage) rather than wasting their bag allowance on a little child-sized bag with a few toys in it.
Remember to pack your passports and paperwork into a place where you can access them very easily - it isn't easy juggling babies, toddlers, bags and paperwork at passport control! Also, wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off, just in case you are asked to remove them at security.

10.  Allow for the Unexpected

When you pack your carry-on bag, make sure that you have more than you need of everything.  Although you can buy most things in airport shops, a delayed flight can be costly if you have to buy full packs of nappies, etc.  Much easier to just slip an extra couple into your bag.  It's also best to bring a few emergency supplies, such as sachets of Calpol that can be carried through security.  And pack plenty of wipes - eating on the plane is messy, and you never know when your little one will treat you to an explosive poo!

And finally . . . .

ASK FOR HELP!  There are lots and lots of people working at the airport, and I'm not shy about asking any of them for help.  The gate we use regularly at our local airport has loads of stairs and no lift.  I've watched others lifting and carrying prams up and down these steps, and it's not for me!  I pick up the 'Assistance' phone nearby and ask for assistance, at which point they just take me round a different way.  It's always worth asking.  On the flight, I've always found that attendants can't do enough for you if you're travelling with little ones, so don't be afraid to make your needs known.

Enjoy your holidays!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Memory Box

We spent three days on the south coast recently - our first real seaside holiday together!  We were with my parents, visiting family, and we had a very special time messing about on the beach, plopping pebbles into the sea, eating ice cream, running on the pier and just generally doing all those British seaside things I remember from my own childhood.

Living the dream!

One day we went on the pier and OB saw a toddler's 'roller coaster' with cars and trucks going round and round on their track, and even up and down a little slope. He wanted to 'drive cars!' as soon as he saw them, but I was worried that he'd start crying to come off the minute it started.

Eventually I relented and let him choose his car. I needn't have worried - he loved it!  Needless to say, we went on it again pretty soon afterwards :)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Just the Two of Us

So, our big Month of Events is over.  NB has gone to his new Mummy, we've visited some family members that we haven't seen in around 20 years (I know!!) and we've moved house.  Phew!  Now a little time to just be the two of us before someone new comes to live with us.

Lots of people have been asking me how NB is getting on.  Well, his Mummy has emailed me twice and sent a few photos, and it seems that he's doing pretty well on the whole.  He gets a little sad around bath and bedtime - such well-remembered routines - but she's handling it well with him.  This was expected as these were difficult times for him during the transition.  On the days when she bathed him and put him in his pyjamas, his relief at then being brought back to me was very evident.

We did a lot of work about endings with NB, at his new Mummy's request.  It was important to her that NB developed an understanding that coming to live with her meant not living with me and OB anymore.  She made him little countdown calendar using photographs of us all, showing the days when he would see her, see us all, and then not see me and OB any more.  It worked well, and probably did help him to prepare for the big event. I did wonder if it meant that he was perhaps more sad in the run-up to handover day than he otherwise would have been.  Without this preparation he might have been happier during transition (although he might just have been confused!), but then the shock of being left would probably have been much worse, so on the whole it was worth it.

One of the most striking things about this last few weeks has been the hammering home of the contrast between the life that NB was born into, and the life that he will now lead.  I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that NB will want for nothing in his new home - every opportunity will be opened to him, and every type of extra help and support that he may need will be readily available.  New Mummy's skillset, her passion and her whole lifestyle will see to that.  I am glad to have delivered that precious little boy to a person who I'm confident will provide him with the best possible chance at a good life, whatever that might look like for him.

Lots of people have also been asking me how OB is getting on without his little playmate.  This is a good question as the boys were together for long enough that OB would have no memory of life without NB.  Well, it seems like my plan of keeping us all very busy and entertained with grandparents has done its job so far.  He only mentioned NB a very few times in the days after he went.  Since my parents left us, he has mentioned him a lot more, but when I ask him where NB is, he can answer that he's living with 'new Mummy', so I'm feeling fairly confident that he's processing it all quite well on some level.

Of course, now OB has no live-in playmate, Mummy has to step in!  "Play wid dat Mummy!  Push dat car Mummy!  Sit down here Mummy!"  This is now the soundtrack of my life!