It’s been a while…

It’s been just over five months since I’ve been on a plane (and since I’ve written something on here…). I can’t leave the country because the United Kingdom Borders Agency has my passport. I haven’t done anything wrong, I’m just in the midst of applying for my Indefinite Leave to Remain, UK’s version of being a permanent resident. A few people have pointed me to the David Sedaris article in the New Yorker from April about when he lost his passport with his ILR stamp in it. And yes, it is precious to get and a pain if you lose it.
So that means I’m not getting on a plane any time soon. It’s been ok, though, because I’m deep into my next stage in life – the Working Mom stage. So the last five and a half months have been more involved with settling back into work (with a promotion!) and Little Man into nursery and still making time for my family and friends too.
I am loving my new job, my husband is amazing, Little Man is a happy and blossoming little boy and summer has now come and gone here in London.
But seriously, back to the name of this blog. We can’t join my husband any time soon, and it’s annoying because he’s been to Tokyo, Singapore, back to the US, Malaysia, Dubai, India…places I’d love to take Little Man to…and some places I’d love to see too!
I’m not sure how many people actually read this, but thank you to all of you who do. It’s not going away, but it won’t have lots of far flung distance travel experiences in it for a while. At least, until I get my passport…but we’ve taken some day trips and also road trips around the island of England, Scotland and Wales. So I’ll hopefully be able to provide some tips and tricks for travelling with a now-18-month old in a car for more than an hour.
And if any of you have some great tips, please send them my way. We thought Little Man loved his new car seat and while he likes it better than his bucket, he still has a shout if the stars aren’t aligned perfectly. And 14/15/16/17/18-month-old lungs are louder than his 6-month or even 12-month old ones. Maybe it’s because they’re facing forward now…
So hopefully I’ll be back soon with some great road trips for you. But in the meantime, I’d love to hear how you entertain/distract your little toddlers while driving long distances (and they don’t want to sleep).

Sling vs stroller at the airport

We decided to get a lightweight travel stroller before our most recent trip to the US. We’ve loved travelling with our everyday ones, but thought a lightweight one would be better with getting in and out of taxis, around towns and all over. One test we had was to see what it was like taking it through security to the gate instead of checking it all the way through, like we’ve done in the past.
I thought I’d summarise it up with a list (albeit short) of pros and cons. It’s a very short list but I think it covers most things.

Pros

  • Save your back by not slinging
    Somewhere to hang/put bags
  • Easy to take straight to gate
  • If you’re travelling alone, seems a lifesaver when you don’t have those extra pair of hands
  • Cons

  • If your baby is sleeping when you go through security, he’s got to come out of the stroller (and risk being woken) so it can be x-rayed
  • You’re typically the last person off the gangway (waiting for them to get the strollers from the hold)
  • One extra thing to have at the plane and deal with when there’s a sleepy/hungry/antsy baby
  • My final verdict – check the stroller in and use a sling. You have two hands with a little one in a sling and won’t be the last person off the plane.

    But that’s just my opinion.
    Do you have any other pros or cons on using a stroller at the airport?

    San Antonio Children’s Museum

    In our last trip to the US, we had a few days in San Antonio to kill. My husband and I have been there before during a roadtrip through Texas and the American West where we visited the Alamo. With me and Little Man on our own because my husband had work to do, we decided to go exploring in the city.
    Museums are great, but what Little Man needs these days is a place to wander around and expend some energy. And a hotel lobby is only so good for that. I decided that wherever we travel, we’ll go explore the zoos, aquariums and children’s museums (any or all of the above). San Antonio had both the zoo and the children’s museum (and the aquarium, somewhat, if you count Seaworld).
    We had three days, so it only made sense to explore all three. And boy was it fun! Most cities have a children’s museum where it is a hands on place with lots of rooms that have different activities and focus areas. Since Little Man is still only truly mobile on his hands and knees, unless he’s holding onto a wall or cart or hands, we aim straight for the toddler or soft play area. Some museums have these areas blocked off so it’s only for toddlers and babies less than 36 months, some have just an area but it’s not segregated as much.
    The San Antonio Children’s Museum has a small-ish area that is walled off and you must be under 36 months and accompanied by an adult to go in. It’s not monitored, but it is the honour system there – and most of the activities aren’t really exciting for those who are a bit older. Little Man loved the different areas in the little TotSpot in this children’s museum. It has the perfect amount of activities and space for several babies/toddlers to play in and amuse themselves with. There was this jumbo Lite-Brite wall which was the perfect combination of pulling things out to pile them up and then trying to put back. It was this meter-square board with 1-inch diameter holes drilled in it spaced about 3-4 inches apart sitting in front of a light box. Then, there were lots of clear plastic dowels in several colours you could fit into the holes. And presto – a blue dowel that looked ok off the wall all of a sudden lit up when stuck into a hole! And imagine having twenty of these coloured dowels to take out (and mummy putting back in). A Little Man’s delight! There was also a great soft play area – undulating soft ramps and big mats that babies could crawl around and the more mobile ones could play on and not have any worries of banging into anything. They were situated in a corner of the room, against some cool mirrors with a ballet barre right at cruising height. Once Little Man discovered the mirrors, he was sorted.

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    The other favourite area was a big tube filled with water and some bobbing plastic fish that had continuous bubbles floating up. At the base, the were four buttons, each a different colour that when lite, would colour the column in that colour. Well, bubbles and buttons are some of Little Man’s favourite things too, so he spent lots of time playing with that area too.
    The whole museum took up two floors and it must have been situated in an old woolworth’s or something with massive windows along the front but lots of space for kids to run around and be entertained on a rainy (or, as it’s Texas, super hot) day.
    Is is situated right across from the Alamo and next to the Riverwalk, so if you are in San Antonio without a car (or don’t want to drive for a while), it’s perfect.

    We are back…

    …and lots to catch up on. Coming up, I plan to write up recaps on:
    Houston – Gymboree, the zoo, the Children’s Museum and the aquarium
    San Antonio – the river walk, the Children’s Museum and the zoo (and Brackenridge Park)
    Miami – the Seaquarium and the beach!
    Until them, I’m working on getting a very awake one year old to sleep…dealing with jet lag is probably another post in and of itself.
    Here’s a pic of Little Man enjoying his first shovel and bucket!

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    One year old!

    I can’t believe today is his first full day as a one-year-old. Officially no longer a baby, but a toddler! Time has flown by and it seems like he’s been in our lives forever. It is hard to remember what life was like before Little Man arrived and yet my life has never felt more complete.
    I can’t believe he’s gone from this

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    To this

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    Happy birthday Little Man. I hope you had a wonderful day yesterday.
    I love you very much.

    One week…

    In one week our little boy is going to be one. He’s grown from a tiny little lump into a big, energetic little toddler. We settled him into nursery this past week as my maternity leave ends soon and I head back to work. I look at the videos we made of him laying on the floor looking at the dolls hanging off his little mat gym and wonder how he could have ever just swatted at them when now, he’s grabbing the bars and pulling the dolls off. Interacting with them instead of just watching them swing.
    Little Man has seen a lot of the world and he’s not finished. If we can keep travelling with him during his childhood I’ll be an excited mama. My parents showed me the world, and as an adult, I kept going and now I’ve seen even more with my husband. And we haven’t stopped exploring. I want to do the same for Little Man. He’s off to see the world and no one’s going to stop him.
    Yesterday, we flew to the US (his fifth transatlantic flight this year!), and are going to Texas and Florida. Texas for my husband’s work, Florida for some well-deserved sun and warmth and sand!
    We’re celebrating Little Man’s first birthday in San Antonio and I’m on a quest to get him a birthday cake. It’s proving extremely hard to find a bakery that makes completely sugar free cakes – no sugar, Splenda, molasses, honey, or agave syrup. Nothing. At home, we can make banana cakes sweetened with super ripe bananas and dates and applesauce, but bakeries just don’t do that sort of thing. I almost packed up all the measurements of the dry ingredients – a Ziplock bag of flour, baking soda and cinnamon – and cake tin and then get the bananas and applesauce, but figured the security wouldn’t appreciate an unmarked bag of white powder. By hook or by crook, though, he’s gonna get his own cake to smash and enjoy and get thoroughly messy for his first birthday.
    This is my last trip as a full time mum before I go back to work and I’m really excited about it. In Houston and San Antonio, it’ll be me and Little Man exploring – this time we’ll head to the zoo and maybe a museum and probably a Gymboree class and then in Florida (we’re still deciding between Miami and the Keys), it will be the three of us exploring and, more importantly, relaxing as much as Little Man will allow.
    I am also looking forward to using Little Man’s shiny, new, bright red lightweight stroller. It’s a Micralite Superlite. This trip, we experimented with taking it straight through to the gate at the airports too (results coming later…). We decided to get him a lightweight, collapsible stroller for the nursery runs when we’re not slinging him and also for travel. I’ve absolutely loved our other two strollers (Bugaboo and Mountain Buggy) this year travelling, but we’re at the stage where I think we needed a lightweight stroller and we’ll have less of a need for his bigger ones. Plus, the compactness and lightness of this new one is amazing (6.5kg/13 lbs). It folds with one hand, has adapters for the Maxi Cosi car seats, it’s got a great mesh seat, has big back wheels (unlike most lightweight umbrella strollers) and just looks cool. Little Man seems to like it too – he can swing his feet until his heart’s content and he sleeps really well in it. Here’s a pic of Little Man enjoying a nap in it on an amazingly sunny and warm day in London last week.

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    Any suggestions of things to do with a one-year-old in Houston, San Antonio or southern Florida?

    What do babies eat when you’re on the go and want to stay clean?

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    When I’m out for the day and I know I’m going to be feeding Little Man, I look for the “clean” foods. Mind you, a lot of these travel well and live in our nappy bag and I’ll replenish or freshen up as needed.
    Carrots – raw or cooked
    Green beans – steamed
    Broccoli
    (Any kind of steamed green veg, mostly)
    Grapes (juicy, but clear juice if going for green grapes)
    Biscuits
    Plain pasta
    Peas
    Rice (can be mixed with veg)
    Cereal (shredded wheat or puffed rice are current favourites)
    Homemade banana and oatmeal cookies
    Dried fruits – prunes, apricots, raisins
    Sliced chicken or turkey
    Omelet – I take one egg, beat it and put it in a pan with a little oil until cooked through then cool it and slice in strips. Little Man loves this
    Rice cakes
    Pieces of chicken, turkey or salmon without sauce or gravy
    Bread roll (or any kind of toast, baguette, etc)
    Tomatoes (surprisingly, but if they’re deseeded, they don’t leave too much of a mess)
    Freeze dried fruit (strawberries and blueberries are currently a favourite)
    Crèpes or pancakes – pick a country’s version (homemade ones without salt or sugar in them)
    Dried fruits (Little Man’s loving prunes and apricots) – we get the organic ones without potassium sulfate
    Any puréed baby food in one of those brilliant Tetra packs – Ella’s, Plum Organics, Organix, HIPP Organic…I don’t even bother with those screw-on spoons, Little Man sucks straight from the pouch.

    What are your favourite snacks or lunch foods when you’re on the go and you don’t want to leave a mess?