Have Baby, Will Travel (Part 1).

I am slightly ashamed to admit that when l was a happy-go-lucky twenty-something traveller, l used to (silently) curse parents who brought small screaming babies onto planes. When my peers started creating ‘mini-me’s in my early thirties l developed much more sympathy, and just turned my headphones up a bit. Nowadays l am the parent in the front of the row of seats, desperately shovelling the hot meal into her mouth with her left hand whilst balancing a baby in the right; walking wild-eyed and wild-haired up and down the aisles trying to calm a fractious monster; performing contortions in the toilet to pee and change the baby simultaneously; and then tented under a blanket too afraid to move for hours lest the baby on her lap awake.

Now l have to do it all again, with a boy who is four months older, substantially larger, more mobile and wilful than on his last plane adventure. I like to be prepared (must be the Girl Guide in me) so have scoured the internet for helpful tips for travelling with a child in general, of which there are many – thankyou all you wonderful parent bloggers out there. Here follows my plan for survival (it will also, no doubt, include at least one beer).

Blanket and PJs. In the vain hope that there might be some sleep taking place.

Blanket and PJs. In the vain hope that there might be some sleep taking place.

Food Glorious Food. And, yes, l have decanted the formula into ziplock bags. Ziplock bags are my new post-it notes.

Food Glorious Food. And, yes, l have decanted the formula into ziplock bags. Ziplock bags are my new post-it notes.

Toys and books. Noisy Farm does what it says on the tin. Fellow passengers are going to be rudely awakened by cocks crowing and cows mooing. It will add a frisson of excitement to their otherwise boring airplane experience.

Toys and books. Noisy Farm does what it says on the tin. Fellow passengers are going to be rudely awakened by cocks crowing and cows mooing. It will add a frisson of excitement to their otherwise boring airplane experience.

The Essentials. Sterlising bags, bibs, muslins (the Aden & Anais ones are huge, we could probably make one into a parachute if we got desperate), and Calpol.

The Essentials. Sterlising bags, bibs, muslins (the Aden & Anais ones are huge, we could probably make one into a parachute if we got desperate), and Calpol.

A travelling outfit. This contains more layers than he has worn in his life. But it also looks cute, which may help me persuade other travellers to look kindly on him when he is trying to throw his rattle at them/wake them up with farm animal noises.

A travelling outfit. This contains more layers than he has worn in his life. But it also looks cute, which may help me persuade other travellers to look kindly on him when he is trying to throw his rattle at them/wake them up with farm animal noises.

If all else fails... have iPad, will distract baby.

If all else fails… have iPad, will distract baby.

Have Baby, Will Travel (Part 2) will follow when we arrive in the UK. In the meantime, if you read of a family that was evicted from a plane as their baby boy attempted to climb into the cockpit and drown the pilot in dribble, that is probably us.

P.S Any more tips from you wise parenting folk are always welcome.

I wish it could be Christmas everyday

Christmas Day has always been one of my favourite days of year. I have spent most of my Christmases in the UK with my family, following much the same traditions as the year before. Wake up early, open stockings (at 37 l still get ridiculously excited about this), go for a swim in the sea (yes, the actual sea), warm up with a nip of brandy and a hot bath, change into Christmas outfits, eat dinner, open presents, play games and them one by one fall asleep in front in the television. Even with divorces, remarriages, partners, friends and the odd additional pet, most years remain comfortingly the same. Apart from the last four.

2010 – Myself and The Husband, then boyfriend, had been through a horrific breakup a couple of months earlier. He had moved to China. I was still very much an emotional mess. This Christmas l just remember being a black hole of tears with sad songs on repeat and, really, not much else.

2011 – Myself and The Husband, then boyfriend, had just got back together. However, my mum had been unexpectedly diagnosed with lung cancer a week before, and was due to have a lung removed two weeks after Christmas Day. It was a quiet and sombre day despite our best efforts. No-one swam. No-one really ate dinner. The atmosphere was pretty bleak.

2012 – Having just moved to Bangkok, myself and The Husband, then fiancee, decided that we would take the holiday we had talked of for years. We went to Japan. It was amazing, and we spent Christmas in Tokyo, one of my all time favourite cities. We woke up in a tiny hotel room, opened the few presents we had managed to squeeze into our backpacks, went for Christmas Dinner in a British Pub, took a walk in the park and watched ‘Cross of Iron’ (not my choice) on the laptop until we could Skype the family. We ate take-out sushi from the 7-Eleven for dinner with a can of Asahi from a vending machine. Probably the strangest non-Christmas/Christmas either of us have ever had.

2013 – I was almost 4 months pregnant, so myself and The Husband decided to stay put in Thailand. We had my brother and another good friend from China come and stay. We tried to create as traditional a Christmas as possible. We all had stockings to open in the morning, took a Christmas swim in our swimming pool (a tad warmer that the sea), drank Bucks fizz, then headed for a buffet lunch at one of the posh hotels in the city. Bloated (l blamed my bulge on the growing baby, not the mountains of Christmas pudding), we played games into the evening, when we all passed out on the sofa watching a film. It was perfect.

Fast forward to 2014. We are taking The Boy back to the UK for two weeks, to experience the Christmas I had when growing up. We have, however, already introduced him to the joys of decorating a tree, thinking he would love the twinkling lights and sparkly baubles. In truth, he prefers the plug socket underneath.

This decoration was promptly thrown up on.

This decoration was promptly thrown up on.

Not happy about the antlers. Or the selfie.

Not happy about the antlers. Or the selfie.

This is taking up valuable crawling space.

This is taking up valuable crawling space.

What do you expect me to do with this?

What do you expect me to do with this?

Okay, l got this.

Okay, l got this.

Rocking around the tree. Dad style.

Rocking around the tree. Dad style.

After the baby had gone to bed.

After the baby had gone to bed.

Advent Calendars tomorrow, yippee! Happy Advent one and all.

 

Santa Baby

You are young (say, under 30), your friends have started reproducing, and it is Christmas. Your mantlepiece starts filling with cards adorned with various offspring dressed as Santa Claus, a Christmas Pudding, a Wise Man, or just in a festive jumper smiling broadly for the camera. “Oh no,” you think scornfully, “poor children, surely that will scar them for life”. Then you become a parent. One day, with nothing better to do, you find yourself putting your child in an empty cardboard box for fun. They like it. A lightbulb pings in your head. Christmas is coming…..

Here are the outtakes:

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A Rare Day

The maid and the nanny both called in sick this morning. A sentence I never thought I would write, let alone say out loud. It did, however, mean that I got to spend a rare day with The Boy.

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An afternoon stroll.

Rare, not because I never have time with him – quite the opposite, I spend the whole time at work desperate to get home to play, and we are together for the majority of every weekend. No, today was rare because it was a weekday, we were on our own at home, and there were chores to be done.

I work as a full-time teacher at an international school, where the maternity leave is a mere six weeks long and a part-time job is not an option. Financially I must work, for my sanity I must work, but I still long to be able to spend at least half my week being a stay at home mum. My mother did forewarn me that parenthood would be a balancing act and that guilt would become the norm, and it continues to be a tough adjustment to make. Even when I am lucky enough to be in a position where my son is cared for by an amazing nanny, and that I rarely have to iron a shirt or empty a bin.

On an average day I spend from 5am (ish….) to 7am getting The Boy, The Husband, The Cats and myself ready for the day. This involves making bottles with one hand and putting mascara on with the other whilst blowing raspberries and eating a bagel. The nanny arrives, we go to work. Approximately eight hours later I attempt to rush home through treacle-like Bangkok traffic to spend the last two or so hours playing with The Boy before bedtime.

So today was a taste of the lifestyle that I long for. My Boy and I played lots of games; we took a walk to the supermarket (albeit on a pot-holed pavement alongside a smoggy three-lane highway. Thanks, Bangkok); we had breakfast and lunch together; we watched Charlie and Lola; I watched him try to crawl and land on his nose; I kissed him and made it better; I put him down and woke him from naps; in short, I had a perfectly normal day of parenthood. Oh, and I did the chores – three loads of laundry, the ironing, the mopping of floors and the changing of sheets. The mundanity of it was marvellous.

Perhaps the idea I have of being able to enjoy work and still feel like I am investing enough time into my child is both fantastical and impossible, but I hope that one day I will be in a position to at least try. However hard it is to give up coming home to a sparkling kitchen floor and underwear that is ironed and colour-coded.

Autumn Apple & Maple Cake

Autumn is one of my favourite times of year. Crisp air, russet leaves, log fires and darkening evenings; the smoky smell of Bonfire Night when you are wrapped up tightly against the biting wind. Here in Bangkok, despite every clothes shop being full of scarves, gloves, winter coats, and some rather fetching earmuffs with nary a vest top in sight, it remains hot and steamy.  Its inhabitants dress for an imagined winter, huddling in their houses with the air con on full. So l am cooking for an imaginary Autumn, inspired by all the blogs out there that are full to the brim of pumpkins, apples, and chestnuts. Recently The Boy has been tucking merrily into imported apples, often blended with roasted squash and this week there were a couple left over. So, inspired by a recipe by Amber Rose in Love, Bake, Nourish, l made this unusual but nonetheless delicious Apple & Maple Cake. I ate this wearing a summer dress, but in my head l was kicking winter boots through piles of leaves.

Autumn Apple & Maple Cake

Cake Ingredients:

250g apples (two medium apples)

2 eggs, seperated

125ml olive oil

225g plain flour, sifted

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

150g maple syrup

pinch of salt

Topping Ingredients:

200g cream cheese

100g maple syrup

1 lemon

1 lime

Method:

1.) Wash and peel apples (I left the peel on for texture)

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2.) Grate apple and squeeze all the moisture out through a sieve.Apple Cake-2

3.) Beat egg yolks and oil together until creamy. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, maple syrup and grated apple. Mix thoroughly.Apple Cake-3

4.) In a very clean bowl, beat egg whites and salt until you have stiff peaks.Apple Cake-4

5.) Gently fold the egg whites into the cake mixture, then pour into a cake tin and bake for 30 – 40 minutes at 180 degrees Celcius.Apple Cake-5

6.) Beat together the cream cheese and maple syrup, adding the zest of the lemon and a squeeze of juice.

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7.) Smooth on top of the cooled cake and decorate with some lime zest.Apple Cake-7

“In Heaven, it is always Autumn.”
John Donne

A Pregnancy Abroad

When I found out I was pregnant, I assumed that my experience would be very similar to the one I would have had, had we been living in the UK. So it was with great surprise that I spent the following nine months often confused, sometimes amused and primarily wondering what on earth was going on. Here are some things that I learnt along the way:

Obstetricians are not Midwives

In my mind, midwives are like your Mum. They give advice, hold your hand, feed you tea and biscuits and generally make you feel like you are a normal pregnant woman. In contrast, my obstetrician was clinical, brusque and whilst efficient, certainly lacked a ‘gentle touch’ either physically or verbally. In appointments I mostly felt confused and/or violated. But she did give us a 4D scan of the baby for free, so that redeemed the situation marginally.

Hospitals are like posh hotels

The waiting rooms were plush, with free drinks, soft chairs and free Wifi. No matter that appointments regularly required a 1 hour wait, there was a Starbucks and an Au Bon Pain downstairs as well as a man playing soft jazz on a grand piano. What more could you want?

Maternity wear has not left the 1970’s

It seems that as soon as Thai women discover they are pregnant, they ditch their hot-pants and sequinned heels and don a sack-like denim smock. The like of which my mother wore in the 1970s. Despondent after searching high and low for something vaguely flattering for my expanding belly, I found a small section of maternity wear in one branch of H&M. Which was full of winter clothes.  A credit card, the internet, my mother and a Fed Ex parcel later, I finally had clothes that fitted as well as flattered.

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My Mum’s maternity wear, circa 1978.

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My maternity wear, circa 2014.

Babies should not be big

I come from a family of big babies. So does The Husband. So when my bump was growing exponentially we were neither surprised not shocked. However, our maid was convinced I was having twins. The Thai office ladies at work could not stop touching my ever growing belly with the wonder of something never seen before. My obstetrician actually went into hysterical laughter of disbelief when the screen showed an expected birth weight of 4.5kg. I felt like a freak-show.

Exercise is plain weird

I was determined to stay fit and healthy, but there was not even a sniff of anything resembling a ante-natal class anywhere nearby. So I kept going to the gym. All I got was confused and slightly disapproving looks from the staff and members, which I could ignore. Until I was 37 weeks, and the manager was so entertained by my sweaty pregnant self on a cross trainer she decided to take photos. It was clearly time to stay indoors with a pre-pregnancy yoga video on You Tube.

Heat is your enemy

9 months pregnant. 79 kilos. 40 degree heat and 95 % humidity. These are not a good combination, ever. Even the swimming pools are as hot as bath water. Air con and a fan were my constant companions for at least a month.

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Big. Hot. Only 35 weeks.

Fish Sauce makes you sick

The smells of Bangkok are overwhelming at times, and worse when pregnant. There were days when a heady scent of fish sauce, frying garlic, rotting rubbish and blocked drains had me running at full speed through our compound just so I wouldn’t throw up in a hedge. Thai food is not your friend when you are struggling to hold down a plain cracker.

Vaginal Births are for peasants

My obstetrician (here she is again!) looked like she had been slapped with a wet fish when I told her I was going to give birth naturally. I was utterly confused until a nurse said, “But no-one wants a natural birth, it is too messy”. If you have money, C-Sections are the norm here. I doggedly stuck to my British, “l am not too posh to push” guns, until a brush with gestational diabetes meant l had a C-Section anyway. Ah, the best laid plans.

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The Boy and I, In our “hotel” room.

Of course, all of this resulted in the most lovely little boy a mother could want, so it was worth it. However, I am sure I am not the only one to find myself in this situation, there must be more of you with tales to tell….