BBQ, Boots and Bucees: Texas baby! (Part 1)

You may remember that last September, aka a lifetime ago, we went on a long haul voyage with Bebe FF (aged 7 months) to Mexico. It is fair to say we were somewhat apprehensive about the trip, navigating the journey, the heat, the bottle sterilisation… but it went swimmingly (literally 70% of the time spent in water) and we came away thinking “we should do this more often!”. Of course we didn’t because we are not made of money, but it gave us the confidence to book another long haul holiday; we were feeling empowered. We are parents and we can continue to travel!

Being in the very fortunate position of having our own Lone Star State family that were long due a visit, we decided we could do Texas. “Do Texas” we did… but boy was it a different experience with a boddler!

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Challenge un: finding out you are pregnant with Bebe #2 shortly after booking. Que?!! I will blogulate separately about the mind-blowingness of falling pregnant after a long journey of fertility drama, and when your first bébé is still… well, a bebe. For the purposes of this blog, you just need to imagine a tired, bloaty, nauseous, shocked Mama FF, at that stage of pregnancy where you are incapable of thinking beyond the end of the day, let alone for a 2+ week tour of the great Lone Star State. I would just like to sidenote that I was particularly looking forward to some giant margarita action with my Texas crew, which naturally had to be sidelined….*liver sighs in relief* …. I did however manage to maximise all my food dreams including eating TexMex for approximately 10 days straight and ordering multiple sides and additions “for the Bebe” (either the one on the outside or on the inside, and in any case all ending up in my belly: #win). Our Texas family started and ended our trip with Papasitos and we are still dribbling thinking about it.  SO GOOD.

Challenge deux: getting ourselves and our shizzle to the airport. You may be masterful at packing but I challenge you to pack effectively for yourself and a boddler when you are tired, fat, and from a country that is notoriously rainy going to a country where it’s insanely hot.    Turns out I’m truly terrible at packing expandable, hot, decent clothes and also not so great at packing for my Bebe. Mr FF did a pretty strong job on his side, but he hasn’t doubled in size and his wardrobe choices are approximately 0.3 of mine. For Bebe FF, even though he’s little, he needs a lot of paraphernalia and you kind of think the more of his own stuff you bring, somehow the more familiar it will seem and, therefore, he *will* be happy. Yes we need to take his cups, and bedding, and towel, and those 3 extra large teddies he once played with, 15,000 long sleeve tops (air conditioning is cold!) and every variety of Ella’s pouches *just in case*…. So all of this to say we basically had a shed load of stuff. We also have the actual Bebe.  Bebe FF is now getting big for carrying on me, and I also have a growing barrier to front carrying, aka Bebe #2, so we for sure needed the Babyzen yoyo (best thing ever). I’m also not enormously helpful as a bag carrier nowadays, so whatever we took, Mr FF essentially had to single-handedly get it from A to B and then to TX.

We decided on the basis of the  simple drama of packing that we would need to get to the airport in the car, and in that case we might as well just get a hotel by the airport the night before to give us some leeway before travelling. It was an excellent (and very grown up) plan (Mr FF gets full cred for that) and meant we had some sleep before our morning flight. Mr FF also got to enjoy loading and unloading the baggage a few extra times… trooper. Naturally Bebe FF was keen to show us what joy lay in store so decided he probably wouldn’t sleep in the hotel bed and would instead make loud banging noises throughout the evening. So “some sleep” is an accurate description, not all the sleep.

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brothers from another mother

Challenge trois: flying. I’m one of those people that doesn’t look forward to stuff until it’s pretty much happening. For holidays, I only get excited when I’m actually on the plane. However, that experience has recently changed. Once on the plane I suddenly realise the scale of the potential unknown that lies ahead… perhaps it’s the look of fear in people’s eyes as they glance in my direction, just at the moment Bébé FF loudly catapults out of my lap and onto the floor in a cloud of snot and food particles. Ten hours with that little monstre?! TEN HOURS. Even for a “normal” human being that’s a long time to sit relatively still. But we don’t have time to think about ourselves: Bebe FF doesn’t do sitting. He actually doesn’t do any one single thing for any extended period of time. He has recently realised that sitting still is for statues, and actually the best way to use every ounce of energy is to wriggle endlessly around, up and down, shaking his head whilst simultaneously making loud noises and – if possible – also pointing his finger. If you’re lucky he also throws in a slap.

The only distraction that is even remotely effective is food. The prospect of feeding him non-stop for 10 hours did occur to us and we ensured that one of the 17 carry-on bags we had was stuffed with copious amounts of relatively odourless and colourless “food”. Probably the best tip in this whole blog is the following: take Rice Krispies and other small cereal with you to travel. Take plenty. Fill little pots and even toys with the things. Watch with joy as your little one puts all their concentration into picking up a single one of those beauties and remind yourself there are 27,459 to go. There’s no stickiness or staining and they eventually just melt away, they aren’t bad for Bebe and shouldn’t hurt his teeth or belly. Voilà. Those ten hours quickly disappear into… erm eight. Ahem.

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Another important tip is get the bassinet friendly seats at the front. Get them, whatever you have to do. I wasn’t sure if Bebe FF would even fit in the seat still, but he did (didn’t look very comfortable but he was secured at least and not trying to squish Bebe #2) and he managed to nod off a couple of times much to our delight. Four more hours gone! The only annoying thing was when there was turbulence we had to get him out and back onto the lap – mildly traumatic when you’ve just spent the best part of an hour encouraging him to sleep.

Anyway, all in all, the combo of snippets of sleep and Rice Krispies saw us through and we got off the plane with smiling fellow travellers, including a grandmother who was fully prepared to take Bebe FF away with her, after he graced her with numerous cuddles and dribble-kisses.  This was in slight contrast to the return, where we were slightly less popular with the chaps who had opted for beds for the night flight, Bébé FF having missed the critical indication it was a “night” flight…

Challenge quatre: Getting three.5 tired bodies into a car and somewhere safe in Texas. We are going to a place where the roads are quadruple normal European size. They say everything is bigger in Texas, they are right.  So as relatively average-sized Europeans (pretend I’m not pregnant for a moment and ignore Brexit), the natural choice for a vehicle is the Suburban.  You can fit about 20 Europeans in there, plus the 95 bags that we have, with enough space for a couple of giant US portion drinks.  Mr FF was delighted with his monster truck.  Bebe FF immediately snuggled into his car seat of joy (which by the end resembled a giant Rice Krispie) with endless space to kick and throw water. After a few difficult discussions with the Sat Nav, which was in fact a human person kindly trying to provide directions, we were off towards Houston, our Texas friends, and a place where the sun shines and we, for a short while, don’t have to worry about the dramas left back home and can simply observe the drama around us.

Well, I haven’t even got into the juicy stuff yet: you will have to wait for the next instalment…. Bises x

 

bye bye boddler, hello toddler

Jeez what is happening with time? I know everyone says it flies, but this is like an extended wedding day on steroids! You blink and you’ve not only missed it, but there’s a trail of destruction to show you just what you missed.  We are 14 months in and Bebe FF is now a demi-man. That’s right. I can call him boddler to hold on to that baby “B”… but really he’s a toddler. I could even say he’s heading rapidly into terrible twos, based on the face-slapping I received last night…Ok it was couched either side with a bisous baveux (dribble kiss – sounds fractionally nicer in French right?!) but still. It has begun. He has a mind of his own and he’s not afraid to let us know about it.

So now is the time for discipline. According to wise ones (aka grandmas) this has to be done by the age of 2 -otherwise you’re in trouble. Right. How hard can it be to say “no” to a little person?? Presumably he can’t outsmart us? We adults are in charge, obviously! Right? Wrong. Actually it is quite hard to discipline it turns out. And this in my limited experience so far. Heaven knows what lies ahead. Mais why is it so hard?

1. You say “NO” *all the time*. It gets boring. No you can’t touch the charger, no you can’t have my phone, no you can’t throw your food on the floor. No! please don’t stand up in the bath! Stop! Do not eat that dirt etc. I vaguely recall once reading something that said “don’t say “no” too much, find a different way to send the message.” But which way? Absent some kind of telepathic skills I don’t possess, I can’t find any other way to communicate “No”. “Errr not really?” Or “maybe don’t do that” are not quite as effective. And tbh “no” isn’t exactly 100% success rate… Any tips gratefully received!

2. You sometimes kinda want to say “go on then, just do it” … but that would be irresponsible. Go on then, eat the dirt, and the little worm, in some places that would be a delicacy. But you can guarantee that will be the moment he starts to speak… “mummy said I could eat the dirt!” Or that there is a cat turd right there in the dirt and then, well, irresponsible.

3. It’s so hard to keep a serious face. There are so many exciting things to eat and lick, and if you go at the toilet bowl with your tongue hanging out, making a deliriously excited Gaga noise, I obviously don’t want you to lick it but it’s kind of hilarious that you even want to. No, you should not try to eat a tissue but it’s funny that you will have a go (and yet not eat mummy’s homemade yoghurt surprise?!).  Saying “no” without laughing is particularly tough. Grandma F tells me I have to adopt a strict tone. A strong “NO BÉBÉ!”. But what I actually do is “bebeeeeeee…. nnnn…. pleurghhhffhhh ….. Monsieur FF have you seen this little monkey?!!” It doesn’t help that Bebe FF has rapidly developed a very cheeky grin which he usually gives us as a quick warning he’s about to do a naughty – but being kind, he will give us rookie parents a chance to react. He goes for the phone charger, dangles it alluringly infront of his tongue, then turns to us, with that grin. “Hey, guys, just checking you’re watching me? Ok good. Here I go!”

4. You love them more than anything and don’t want to be mean. I knew this would be hard but never anticipated quite how hard. When you love a little person you don’t want to make them cry. You want to give them everything they want. Chargers and phones and dirt galore. You want to be the best parent ever. But we know that to be that parent, the Bebe has got to understand there are rules and appreciate who is in charge, for now at least. But it’s hard. Those eyes …

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Badass

This is how you feel when you take a 7 month old on a 10 hour flight (x 2, plus delays) and come out (a) alive (b) not covered in sick (c) with the same number of grey hairs (d)  still married and (e) with other passengers smiling and commenting on how great your bebe is.

We did it.  We went long haul and we had an epic time.  Yes, it was a massive headache preparing and packing; yes, it was weird being somewhere super hot and not sunbathing, and yes, it was strange not going out late in the evenings, drinking and raving.  Because Monsieur FF and I used to rave all.the.time.  But sacré bleu it was joyous.

Bébé FF swam through magical cold water cenotes, saw Miss America Latina, talked to parrots, patted iguanas, visited the Mayan ruins in Tulum and Xcaret, rode facing forward in a cab, and even sans seat (eek), slept in a swanky steak restaurant, ate fresh avocado, cucumber and melon (or at least touched and licked convincingly), swam with fish in the sea, tried a coconut, acquired a significant number of Mexican girlfriends and by all accounts had a pretty fantastical time.  Gracias!

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Senorita Mamacita

As you know, we enjoy travelling. Most people gawped at us when we said we were going to  Mexico, like “do you remember that time you gave birth to a BABY? IS HE STAYING BEHIND?!”  Er nope. He is coming. It’s called an adventure and we love them. However, “we” (mostly me) also recognise there is a lot of work and forethought involved in long haul travel, so you have to put the time in. Some people (*some people*) think you can wing it. Maybe a mix of both approaches is best. The type of  things that I don’t worry about day to day in my house in the UK that suddenly become concerning in a hotel resort in Mexico: water, milk source, baby friendly food, washing, sterilising, sleeping, swimming, bugs and mosquitos, safe travelling, general safety! Etc. So pretty much everything. Long haul avec bébé requires a lot of packing and unless you’re very brave with food and milk, careful planning and rationing. Listen to me! I can’t even plan my own dinner! 10 days worth of weaning friendly food and milk, milk receptacles and hot weather clothing was slightly mind-boggling. But we managed, and even had stuff spare! (In our three large luggage cases … ahem).

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During the planning and run up to the trip I was listening out for useful tips and learning as much as possible from other seasoned bebe travellers.One major tip I was given was to travel with bebe before he is crawling.  That was a good tip.  He was quite content to sit in the chair, on my lap or lie in the little cot bed on the plane without wriggling around too much.  He was content playing on his playmat in our hotel room whilst we got bits ready.  He’s trying to crawl but we are absolutely not encouraging it!

Another helpful tip I’ve mentioned before was to buy liquid milk supplies after security at the airport – you can preorder milk from Boots. We did this and had a good supply for each flight.

For those wanting to brave the wild wild wilderness of the world outside your country, here are a few tips, first on the actual travel part:

  1. get to the airport early and ensure they know you are travelling avec infant. It sounds obvious to us, as our little bundles rule our worlds, but the planes only have a set number of infant friendly seats and even fewer at the front with space for the portable bed/chair.  The person checking you in doesn’t care if you face many, many hours on a plane with a grizzly tired baby on your lap.  Be polite and firm and ensure you get a suitable space.  On our initial flight there were both chairs and cotbeds available, on the way back only a chair (looks like a bouncer) – we tested both and both were good. The chair was secured, safe, helpful sleeping material and the cotbed provided a little space Bébé FF could have his toys and play quietly.
  2. Take quiet, non violent toys and snacks that aren’t too messy – we love the Kiddylicious rice crackers as they are totally mess and stick free and very easy to bite and swallow. The mini rice cakes are also pretty good and were happily tossed on the floor when gummed enough. Slightly awks when you see it stuck to the air hostesses skirt, but if you will lean in a coo then you have to deal with the consequences 🙂 I say “non violent” because when a passenger realises he’s sitting in close proximity to a baby for 10 hours, he’s likely to be slightly aggrieved. When he is smacked around the head with a plastic rattle, has to clamber around a dumper truck to go to the loo and finds a teething ring in his dinner he’s going to go apesh1t. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Cuddly toys, small simple chew toys and things that can be safely affixed to something (with dummy ties) work well.
  3. Make sure Bebe is in comfy but sufficiently warm clothes, onesies / PJs are easy and help Bebe ease into sleep mode – the plane temperatures fluctuate but tend to be chilly I find. My legendary big and thin wool scarf/blanket was great for keeping me and Bebe FF at a snuggly temperature.
  4. Try not to stress. Ha! Pot, kettle. I know.  But if you stress, Bebe stresses and then all hell breaks loose. We had a few slightly fraught moments where we had trays of food and drinks and turbulence meaning Bebe FF had to come out of the carrycot and onto a lap – luckily Monsieur FF took the hit and managed to pile everything up around himself so that I was mobile to get the little man. Unfortunately our BA flight was very slow on the service and Monsieur FF was actually contemplating whether he could squeeze into a nappy when he was finally freed from his castle of carton and crusty stale bread to excuse himself to le toilette.  Anyway, keep your sh1t together. Literally.

 

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keep it in here

Tips whilst you are away:

  • you might not have a kettle (i know – who doesn’t drink tea seriously?!) or microwave and water may not be suitable for drinking so think about how you are going to clean/sterilise. We used bottled water which we heated through the cafetière. We used the cold water sterilising bags and Milton sterilising tablets. Check out my Instagram for more details:@be_my_bebe

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  • the milk powder might get sticky if you’re somewhere humid. Ours did and we ended up keeping it in the fridge. It was fine and Bebe FF guzzled it down but be careful as it can go off. Also watch out for little ants and creepy crawlies trying to make the container their new home. Yuk.
  • with fruit and food generally think about where you are and whether the not-so-clean tap water could have been used to rinse. The resort that we were in was fine but I wouldn’t have given him anything “freshly washed” outside.
  • bugs and mosquitos in particular are a pain in the arse. Literally. If like me you are insanely tasty and irrisistible to the blood guzzlers you need to lather yourself in sprays. We used some supposedly natural oil based bracelet things which were relatively effective on the limb they were closest to. After having my left leg mauled by 50 mozzies I started sporting an attractive anklet look. Fluorescent green (my desire to coordinate was quickly thwarted by the yellow blue green choices). FYI the bracelets can also double up as hair bands. I attached some of these to the pram and babybjorn. Babies and deet don’t mix well so we avoided spraying Bebe FF directly with our boots repellent product and instead tried to keep him under the mosquito net when out and about in the pram. When he was with me, I was prime target so he was safe. Motherly self-sacrifice. He didn’t seem to get bitten so it worked.
  • take some napisan and/or washing products with you in a mini container or take samples. Stains stick, and smelly milky stuff smells decidedly worse 10 days later. We managed a couple of washes of bits and luckily had no major poo dramas so felt pretty pleased with myself.

All in all we had a brilliant trip, we achieved so much and Bebe FF seemed très content for the whole duration.

We chanced things a few times and were glad we did. If you go in with low expectations and an open mind you will probably be pleasantly surprised. We went to a show about the history of Mexico one evening, with a dinner service, and expected to leave after the first few minutes.You should have seen our delighted and slightly smug faces when bebe FF decided to nod off at the start of the two hour performance and we were able to enjoy a multi-course dinner whilst watching the spectacle; he napped on the seat next to me oblivious. The ear defenders or “snugs” worked a treat.

It’s not worth thinking about what you’re “missing” when on holiday with a bebe. You’re not missing going out and drinking or burning yourself in the sun, you’re experiencing the trials and tribulations of a new place with your new person, where everything is new for them. And you’re bloody lucky too! We managed to enjoy many a margarita and cerveza – just mostly during the day and early evening 😁

So we’re there any downsides? Yes. Jet lag.

West to East is hard. Since we’ve been home we have had some jet lag issues, I’m not going to lie. The first couple of nights we had a very active and awake little trooper from 8pm-1 am, the very time we wanted to be asleep. Usually he’s down at 7.30pm. We had a very sleepy little guy at 9am that had to be woken up and really wanted to nap until 1pm.  He’s been teary and confused.  It’s been hard and he’s out of sorts.  We are too.  It’s called post-holiday blues. But we are coming out the other side. Ish. We’ve also started the initiation to nursery and working life (URGH), and transitioned to formula full time so it’s been a very challenging week. But more of that next time… Besos X

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Baby Stuff #3 – Bathing, Dressing and Playing

The last instalment – for now – on baby stuff.

Baby bathing products. Yes, you need to bathe your baby. Eau de fromage can become quite pungent after a while.  You have to be careful about the umbilical cord, but once that’s off, you are free to bath.

When you look at your bath and then your baby, you see there is a distinct disparity in sizes.  For the first few weeks we actually used the sink! When the time comes to upgrade to the actual bath, there are some great bath seats around, some that swivel as your babe grows, and you can of course let them splash around pure and simples on their backs.  Careful though – water in the ear can cause ear infections.

Bébé FF LOVES the bath now.  Usually he demonstrates his excitement with a little piddle as his feet touch the water.  It wasn’t always like this.  The journey to loving bath time took a while – I remember his first bath with Auntie Em and Mary, and there was a lot of screaming.  And a few wees and maybe a trickle of poo. The first months were made up of a cacophony of screams (before, during and post bath) not to mention howling when it came to being dressed.

You may have received hundreds of samples of bath products for your baby, all claiming to make your babe’s super soft skin….softer.  Does it need to be softer?

Nope.  It turns out that – in our experience at least – you do not need the super-gentle-made-of-fluffy-marshmallows-and-clouds cream, in fact, you don’t need much at all.  Especially if your baby has sensitive skin, despite what the marketing tells you.  It is best to keep it very simple. (Every baby is different so do see your GP if you have skin concerns, it could be allergy related (washing detergent, moisturiser, bath products, your perfume, the air…) and lots of babies have baby eczema which will clear up.  We also had cradle cap (dentinox seems to be the universal winner on that). We received lots of mixed advice from the health visitors and the doctors – don’t bathe him, bathe him every day, jump up and down whilst you apply five layers of cream…etc.)

We have tried lots of lovely stuff, including Mummy & Me, Oilatum and Neal’s Yard, coconut oil (yum) and currently use Aveeno and QV emollients.

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The post-bath snuggles though are wonderful.   And baby bath towels with the little hood are the BEST.  The more soft and snuggly the better.

Then on to baby clothes, because these are kind of critical and also make up a large volume of the “stuff”.  You might assume clothes will be bargainous.  After all, they use significantly less material. Right?  Wrong. Despite the fact bebe is about 1/6th the size of a normal human being, his clothes are only about 1/2 of the price. Sometimes the same price. Ok slight exaggeration but don’t tell Mr FF….

Bebe won’t like his clothes. He doesn’t want his head shoved through a small hole ever again.  Whoever thought to put poppers on the back of newborn clothes clearly has never tried to dress a screaming newborn.  Think practical.  What is the easiest thing to dress your baby in?  I highly recommend zip-up items for the first few months. If not for your sanity, for the hubs.  (hint:  Don’t put them off dressing the babes, it adds to the general reluctance to change nappies…)

You will also quickly discover that those baby clothes will usually get approximately two wears. Yep, two goes on the item.  And n.b. that does not mean two full days’ wear. That means two wears.  It could quite literally be on and off in the space of a poo.  And, to be fair, the second wear presupposes you know how to fill and activate the washing machine – with one hand – and you have some pretty effective stain remover.  This can be bitterly disappointing and your favourite gift item, the little Petit Bateau onesie or the Bonpoint suit will be ruined…  I digress.

Last there’s the play equipment. This becomes critical after a few weeks of intense cuddling.  Your baby can barely see beyond a black and white cloud of blur at this point. But bien sur he needs a state of the art “gym” including tummy time, scrunkle noises, flying objects, bells, whistles, hooters and insanely bright and clashing colours EVERYWHERE. One similarity with adult life : when he comes out of the gym he is exhausted. When I say “Bebe FF had a great session in the gym and he’s zonked when he comes out” it’s brilliant – you can see people momentarily believing he’s actually been to the gym. Yes, he was totally nailing the cross trainer…

 

He also needs books and cuddly toys so that he can scream every time you place one close to him. Sometimes he will dribble or even vomit on them. Brillo.  He needs things to chew on to help those teef push through. N.b. your finger will always be first choice and you won’t loose that in the bottom of your interminable baby bag (I think I need to post separately about those…!)

All these things take up loads of space in your previously sparsely* inhabited living space and will, naturally, require special “baby” or “nursery” furniture for storage. Bam. Another wad of cash disappears.

So what’s the message here? Three posts about baby stuff.  Likely more to follow.  I haven’t even mentioned nappies, wipes, nappy bins and bags, mussies and milk!

Having a baby actually does cost a fortune, and takes up all the space in the house.  But that’s what a MasterCard is for.  You can’t put a price on your baby’s happiness or safety.  And some of the baby stuff is L’AMAZEBALLS.

New Parents:

If you’re about to embark on this journey of joy and you aren’t made of money, don’t panic.  There are LOADS of ways to get what you want without going bankrupt.

I will try to include tips as I go throughout this blog, but to begin with, a few obvious ones:

  • check out nearly new sales around your area, the NCT organise plenty – you can often get designer attire for primarni prices.  I’ve yet to get to one but Momma F loves a nearly new.  N.B. You have to get there early.
  • Explore Schpock and eBay for equipment that is new or in very good condition.  There are also lots of Facebook pages for local parents selling and looking for goodies.
  • When it comes to nappies and wipes, be sure to test out samples – if you sign up to sites like this one you will get bits and bobs through the post or vouchers to use in stores: http://free.emmasdiary.co.uk.
  • Sign up to Mothercare to get 10% off initial purchases.
  • Amazon Prime. Nuff said.
  • Before you buy your travel system check the auction / second hand sites to see how many are selling and why – useful way to gauge how long they lasted, how much they were used, and why they are being sold!!  If you see someone with a pram shopping for prams… consider asking them why. But don’t act like a stalker.
  • If you are looking the obvious choices are Bugaboo, Joolz, Stokke, Uppababy, MaxiCosi, Cossatto and we went with Venicci.  We also just got the amazing babyzen Yoyo 6+ – more on that later.

 

*anyone that knows me will appreciate the use of “sparse” is possibly slightly misleading.

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