Back to Reality

I’ve been MIA from my blog most of the summer and I’ve actually been overall much less “plugged in”, but now we are back home and I can feel some of the old habits creeping back in, some of which I like and some I don’t. I’m starting to realize how free I felt this summer (not free of kids and parenting responsibilities) but free in the sense of not feeling tied to my phone or email. I realize this is a luxury for some. For example, my husband has to deal with emails on his phone in a timely manner for work (even on vacation) and with technology being so accessible most employers expect this. Our phones are so tied to our daily lives. It’s convenient, but it’s also a burden. When is the last time you went a whole day without checking Facebook or texting with people? You should give it a try…it’s kind of liberating! I digress, my point was that less dependency on technology helped me feel more connected in some ways (less in others) but it was overall a great thing.

Another take away from my summer in Australia was regarding the parenting style. I didn’t see any “helicopter parenting” and life was slower, easier, less overscheduled. I found myself sitting on a bench at the park watching my 5 year old and 1.5 year old playing by themselves or with other kids. I wasn’t always right there with them helping them up onto a structure or playing with them or waiting to catch them if they fell (I did that a little bit with the 1.5 year old when necessary) but parents were much more hands off (and I loved it!) Get this – parents often sit and have coffees together while their children play close by! I can’t explain how this happens (it rarely to never happens to me here in America) but it is the norm there – at least from what I saw. I started to realize that falling onto a soft sandy ground from a foot or two high wasn’t going to seriously injure my child so I let him try more by himself – and he amazed me with what he could do just fine. Now I know some of you reading this are shaking your heads and thinking that just letting your child, especially a toddler, have free range of the park is not a good idea. I don’t know the answer and I don’t presume to tell anyone how to parent, but it was such a different park experience I had to share. All I know is that I’m going to sit more and hover less (and sip my coffee)!

Being away from our home for almost 3 months and living with only what we could pack in 4 suitcases and some carry-on luggage seemed daunting at first but as the weeks went by we realized how well we could live with so much less “stuff”. I’m definitely looking at all our “stuff” at home now thinking “what should we get rid of?” It is really nice to have all my kitchen “stuff” back though, I can’t wait to start eating healthier!

Now it’s back to reality, which isn’t all bad. Being home after 3 months away feels nice, seeing friends and family again, having all my creature comforts (too many I’m thinking now…) and getting back into a rhythm of daily life is a welcome aspect. If only I can retain some of my new habits from this experience. (I was on and off Facebook all day yesterday 😜!)

Have you ever had an experience living internationally with your family for a short period of time? What were your take aways?

Arrival in Perth

Our first few days in Perth were spent trying to recover from our 42 hour nightmarish journey, and truth be told, we didn’t recover right away like the last time I came. In fact, we are still working on that! The toddler kept waking up through the night and thought the day started at 3am and there was no respite during the day (that was to be expected with two little attention seekers). Still, we managed to get out and explore a bit. 

First on the agenda…food and caffeine!


We ate at a restaurant just below the apartment we were staying in (temporarily) in East Perth called Toast. The food was great, but ordering coffee proved to be a bit more difficult. 

At home, I usually drink coffee made in a French Press with a bit of half and half (or coconut milk as it is these days being dairy free). When I asked for coffee after not seeing it listed on the menu the server looked at me like, “yeah, I get that, now which one?” Uh…just coffee please? Well, that doesn’t really exist. You can have just about any type of espresso drink but not “coffee”.

I wish I had found this blog post soooner from the blog When In Oz   

Here’s the gist of your options:
-A Short Black is basically a single shot of espresso served with foam floating on top served in a short glass. Hence the “short” part.
-A Long Black is espresso with water (1/3 parts espresso to 2/3 parts water).Think that makes sense logically? Stay with me…here’s where it gets tricky.
-A Flat White is espresso with steamed milk, very latte-like, I suppose, but with no foam. It’s basically the same as the Long Black but with 2/3 milk instead of water. Weird, right? Don’t order a Long White, that’s where the blank staring comes in.
-A Short Macchiato (Short Mac) is a short black with a dash of cold milk.
– A Long Macchiato (Long Mac) is a double shot of espresso with steamed milk. HUH?
– An Affogato is a shot of espresso poured over a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
-A Cafe Latte is a shot of espresso that is filled with steamed milk and topped with foam. The Flat White with foam?
-A Cappucino (Cap) is what we’d expect in the states (thank goodness) and same with a Mocha. Because seriously, why would you try to mess with chocolate coffee? 

Ok wow. So we are going to try the long black option I think?!?

Moving on from coffee, let me just show you some of the highlights of our few days in the apartment before moving to our beach house (yes, I did say beach!)

 The boys are finally entertaining themselves!

 Such a beautiful winter day here at about 70 degrees F. This is the view from the living room/kitchen area.

 And since we are up before sunrise, why not enjoy the beauty right from our balcony?

 The Scotch Egg obsession (it’s an egg surrounded by sausage and then breaded. yum!)

 Woohoo! got the stroller fixed (we only had to buy another second hand one to salvage the wheels – that was an adventure!) Now what to do with two strollers??

  Minnesotans, this will make you laugh – since they don’t get snow, apparently sledding down grass on cardboard is the next best thing.

 Next post will be from the beach house! 

PS – the toddler is doing much better! (and the Indian food here is amazing – thanks Damian!)

 

A Journey Like No Other- Part 2

Sometime between Thursday May 28th and Saturday May 30th

Ok, we made it on board the flight from SFO to Auckland without Air New Zealand weighing our carry-on luggage (which apparently they actually do quite frequently) and forcing us to check it, which would have been a pain since we had toys, food, and clothes for our 42 hour journey. Phew. After that hurdle was crossed reality of the next 12+ hours sunk in big time; we are going to be stuck on a plane with little kids. There will be no escape. I was trying to think positively, but it was hard. I’ve done this before with one child and it was really, really hard.

  
Our 5 year old was amazing, but we expected that. After all, he IS a world traveller many times over. Heck, he’s even been down under. But our 18 month old? Well, how can I say it…he’s not like his brother. He was pretty good consider the spectrum of what could have happened, but our flight was overnight and uninterrupted sleep, even for an hour or two, was not on his flight plan.

Air New Zealand does have this “sky couch” configuration where three economy seats have little footrests that come up to be flush with the seat part to create a platform from seat back to the seats in the row ahead. Then the flight attendants lay down a mattress pad and give you feather down pillows and wool blankets. Sounds amazing, right? Well, it would have been if my young sleeping companion had felt the same way! I finally woke up my husband half way into the 12 hour flight and demanded a switch in sleeping arrangements. I was hopeful that although not a perfect nigh’ts sleep, I would have a chance to get about 5 hours of fairly restful sleep still. Wrong again. “Mommy, I need to go to the bathroom”, “Mommy, I’m thristy”, “Mommy….”…and on and on and on. While these are all valid reasons for my 5 year old to interrupt my sleep, at this point I’m running on fumes and my patience is nonexistant. Thankfully I didn’t cause permament psychological damage with my less than amiable retorts (I hope?) So went the 12 hour flight. No sleep for the parents, fitful sleep for the 18 month old, and a good solid 8-9 hours of sleep for the 5 year old. 

The other issue we encountered with this flight was that our 18 month old struggles with a dairy sensitivity and since I’m still nursing him, that means I am also dairy-free. When we called Air New Zealand to request special meals, they replied that they would make a note of it in our file but couldn’t guarantee these meals. They also wouldn’t allow us a bit of extra weight to accommodate the extra meals we would have to take with us. This was pretty frustrating, and was even more frustrating when the meal carts came and there was no mention of our request. So basically they offered me fruit (and called it very filling, I don’t what these flight attendants eat normally but fruit alone does NOT fill me up.) So the toddler and I ate fruit and summer sausage I had brought. Did I mention I hate flying?

  
So we made it to Auckland. It was 5:45am local time when we arrived and completely dark (this pic was taken later in the day). My biological clock was so screwed up I had no idea what day it was, or what time of day it was. My brain was so fried from being awake for about 30 hours at this point I didn’t know left from right or up from down. But I was hungry! 

After eating some breakfast (or dinner? or lunch? still not sure what meal that was) we explored the Auckland airport looking for a place to set up camp – we were going to be there for 8.5 hours. After realizing that the airport was super small and all the good sleeping areas were taken, we proceeded to take over aquire some seats in a group where we only displaced politely asked a couple people to move. Funny thing is, as the hours passed and the kids ran around and (mostly) used inside voices, the seats surrounding us became more and more vacant (probably just a lot of flights leaving – couldn’t have been our lovely overtired children causing a raucous).

  
One thing I did find rather nice about the Auckland airport was the fantastic “Parent Rooms” they have. It’s basically a family bathroom but they have thought of everything. Nursing/changing stalls, child and adult size toilets, sinks and drinking fountains and most importantly – a tiny ENCLOSED playroom where I could stash my children while I used the facilities (my husband was off dealing with said stroller incident). Let me tell you, that was one of the most stress-free trips to the bathroom I have EVER had with kids. I can’t even pee by myself in my own home!

   
     

 We passed the time by coloring (mostly on the paper), blowing bubbles, playing with trinkets, eating, trying to alternate sleeping, drinking coffee (because the sleeping didn’t work), eating, walking miles and miles in the airport to put the extremely overtired toddler to sleep and filing a damage complaint with the airline. Uh yeah, you read correctly. As if we didn’t have enough to deal with, Delta had damaged the handle bar of our stroller (which was annoying but it still functioned) but then Air New Zealand damaged our wheels so that our double jogging stroller was more of a limping, wobbly baggage cart (still functional but not as I needed it once we got to Perth!) They were pretty accomodating and told us to take the stroller to a Phil and Ted retailer in Perth and bill the repairs to the airline. Sounded straight forward so we agreed. (More on that later.)

     
   

I think they were so tired of being around us that they needed thier space.        

   
    So we finally made it through the LONG layover and it was time to complete the last leg – a short flight of 7.5 hours (well it seemed short after the 12 hour flight!) to Perth. At this point we didn’t even care if they made a fuss over carry-on weight, I would have ripped them a new one. Seriously. I felt like this flight had the potential of being the best one yet. We had the sky couches again and both kids wanted to sleep. Wrong again. About half an hour or so into the flight I was trying to settle the toddler to sleep and he was fighting it like a rockstar. We were almost to zzzz land when out of no where he starts vomiting. Holy %$#@ (fill in whatever you like there). I did NOT see this coming. At first I thought it might have been because the smoothie we had in Auckland contained yogurt even though we had requested no dairy. At the time I was mildly pissed off when I tasted my toddler’s almost finished portion and realized there was yogurt! But now I wondered if he was reacting to the dairy by vomiting or was this something else? Now I wanted to rip Auckland smoothie-girl a new one too. But maybe he just needed to get it out of his system? Well, 5 hours later he was still vomiting and looked like hell. We were kind of freaking out now. It’s a powerless feeling when your child is sick but then take that scenario 35,000 feet in the air over an ocean and it’s a whole different feeling. The flight attendants even paged a doctor. 

Finally, with about an hour left in the flight, he fell asleep and stopped vomiting. Now we were not only worried about his health but also that the flight attendants were talking about possible quarantine upon arrival. Australia is really strict about these things, especially with the Ebola outbreak.

  
The poor little guy kept throwing up so much he had on only a diaper in this picture. He just lay there limp in our arms as we dressed him before exiting the plane. After about an hour more of getting luggage, filling out the forms we hadn’t had a chance to on the plane, and going through customs we left the airport and found our way to our apartment. We were a mess. Once again, family saved the day! My aunt lives in Perth and she stepped right into the role my own mother would have filled; bought us basic groceries, helped put the kids to bed, sought out dinner, the list goes on. What a wonderful feeling when someone just knows how to step in and care for you. It felt a little like home.

Thankfully, our sick little guy had stopped vomiting and had wet his diaper in the night so we didn’t have to worry as much about dehydration and hospital visits. And for all the worried moms out there reading this, he was much better the next day…not himself yet but better nonetheless.

42 hours, 3 planes, 1 illness and 0 hours sleep for the parents later and we are half way around the world. I am NEVER doing this again until my kids are older! Ummm, except for the trip to Italy next summer to celebrate a family member’s wedding…which we just found out about (the location) on the heels of this nightmare trip. Oh, and to get home in a couple months (cringe).

PS I would like to make it known that I titled this post BEFORE I realized how true it was to be.

Stay tuned for our first few days of adventure in Perth! (I will try to keep the posts shorter and incorporate more about food – especially my trials and tribulations over ordering coffee!)

A Journey Like No Other- Part 1

Thursday, May 28th

Today my oldest son graduated from preschool. Yay! Bittersweet feelings. And then we got on a plane. All four of us. To San Francisco. Oh but that is not where this journey will end. No, we are then going to Auckland, New Zealand and then we will jump on another plane to Perth, Australia. I think Perth is likely the furthest inhabited destination from our home in Minnesota that we could possibly go to. Initially, I was completely against the idea of following my husband’s job there for the summer (I mean winter) but I warmed up to it…kind of. You see, I hate flying on planes. The yogini inside of me wants to stretch out in down dog and let my warrior 2 stand strong, not to mention laying out flat in shavasana. Who wouldn’t want to practice corpse pose at 30,000 feet?!? I can’t sit still. Ok, now add an 18 month old and 5 year old to the mix. Yikes. Ironically, I just recently proclaimed to my husband (who agreed) that we would not be doing any international travels until our youngest son was at least 2.5/3 years old. Even flying to CA with him is tough and that’s only 3.5-4 hours. Anyways, to make a long story short, here we are…on a plane.

Less than 2 weeks ago this journey was not even a seed of thought in my head. Then one day (very recently) my husband woke up and asked me over breakfast if I would like to move to Australia for the summer. What?!? So… I guess we are not talking about plane tickets to Chicago for a wedding next month anymore? 13 days later here we are…on a plane.

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So far, we are running on about 5 hours of sleep per night for the last week, which is average for my husband (Not me!) We stayed up until midnight weighing carry-on luggage that must be under 15lb each (which means our roller boards are half empty) and the birds chirping outside my window woke me up at 5:30am. It could be worse I guess.

The flight to SF went ok. My 18 month old only screamed for about 15 minutes a couple times, I had a glass of wine and my 5 year old watched 3 movies. Thank god for technology (and alcohol). There were even some good moments…

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When we got to SFO my in-laws met us and it was a GODSEND!!! They really saved our sanity and helped us recharge for the remaining 30 hours of our 42 hour transit.

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At the end of our layover in SFO we had only done one leg of our journey but had been in transit for almost 12 hours. The kids were kind of going crazy from fatigue and it was almost midnight for them when our plane boarded for Auckland.

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Stick a fork in him…he’s done.

We had no idea what would happen later…stay tuned for the next chapter.

Travelling with Babies or Toddlers

First rule about travelling with toddlers that anyone will tell you…Don’t Do It!!! Ha ha ha…Now that we have had our little laugh at that, we can move on and realize that at some point in time, you may have to, or want to, travel with your toddler. After making 3 international trips (to 3 different continents) with my son, all between the ages of 13-21 months, I feel that I have earned the right to share the wee bits of wisdom I have acquired and to share some helpful links found through hours and hours of internet research. Above all, I would like to share my “travelling with toddler” mantra: This too shall end. Continue reading