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

 

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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Baby Stuff #2 – Travel Systems

The big one often reserved to daddy is the pram, buggy or more accurately, the “travel system”. These are devices on wheels used to transport your precious bundle from A to B when it can’t be achieved using your arms. The hot wheels.  Typically made up of a chassis, a bassinet / flat bed (babe lies flat from birth to approx. 6 months), chair (approx. 6 months+) and a car seat.  This purchase will likely be subject to more debate than Brexit at Westminster.

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Travel system purchasing is definitely one of the more exciting parts of baby shopping and can be done as couple, with many a romantic moment smiling at each other between the aisles of pushchairs in John Lewis.

 

You will also spend a lot of time furtively glancing at the other similarly-pregnated new couples, trying to decipher their potential choices and underlying rationale.  You may see someone already with a bébé in a pram, looking at other prams.  Take note: that doesn’t bode well for the existing pram.

You may spend a bit of time pushing the empty buggy around the shop and when you get entangled in the chassis, pretending you are trying to put the break on and collapse the contraption.  You blame the bump – silly bump, getting in the way – obviously when the bébé arrives you won’t have any problems! What’s more you will suddenly have become superwoman, turkey wings transformed into solid guns and you will be able to lift the pram and car seat with just one hand, whilst delicately balancing le petit in the other.  Perhaps feeding simultaneously.

Good luck with that.

When your time comes, you will probably look at and test 10, maybe 20 travel systems and in so doing travel half way around the country for the pleasure.  Remember you are pregnant and tired and a little groggy. Whichever one you buy, when you actually start to use it, tired and sore and sleep deprived, you will immediately realise your criteria were ridiculous. e.g. nice colour, shiny frame, matches my changing bag and nail colour, has a big basket for shopping, and – oh look – a cup holder! Brilliant! I will need that.

Question: Does the cup holder help you getting the damn thing into the car??? Can you even lift it?! Does it fit in your boot? Can you fold it or unfold it with one arm? Is there any suspension or does your baby practically fly out when you go over a bump? How quickly can you get your foot, or hand, on the break?  How easily can you detach the bed?  How low do you need to bend to put bébé in?  How wide is the contraption? Will it fit in shop doors?  Or coffee shop doors?  Because if it won’t, you are going to struggle getting that coffee my dear.  And don’t forget the adapters – have you got the correct adapters to fix the car seat to the chassis, because if you haven’t, you’ve got a problem my friend. By the way they are extra $$$.  You get the gist.

BTW travel systems are the price of a small car. Ok, slight exaggeration but you get the point. Guess what, most of them last for about 6 months.  Maybe a year. Tops.  More likely than not you will end up buying a buggy as soon as you possibly can, when bébé can hold their heads better, which is light, small and costs a fraction of your travel system.

NB: Unless you get a complete MaxiCosi system, their car seat is the industry best so you might end up getting their car seat (pebble/ pebble plus) – if your “system” includes a car seat, one third of it is immediately redundant. On this point it is worth finding out if you can get the package without the car seat, hopefully for slightly less $$$.

Oh and guess what, just to finish on the babe, after all, this is for monsieur Jnr – he won’t necessarily love the pram.  Why would he?  He wants to be snuggled close to mummy or daddy, not bouncing around in a little cold box! So I strongly recommend a Babybjorn or similar carrier or sling (something like the NCT caboo carrier for indoors), to get through those moments when your babe refuses to go back in the pram.  It can be very awkward when you’re trying to get home and bébé has decided he has had enough of the wheeled box. Bye bye more money, hello peaceful journeys!

<Tips on buggy shopping to be found at the end of Baby Stuff #3>