1 + 35

Aviana turned the grand old age of 1 in December and I turned 35.  Two big celebrations for us! Our birthdays are separated by 7 days with Christmas in the middle, and then new years eve to wrap it all up.  It’s basically INSANE.  Christmas and my Birthday will never be the same again with Aviana in our lives!

Having a birthday near Christmas has it’s pros and cons, but mostly cons.  No one comes to your birthday parties (or you have a birthday party no where actually near your birthday), people buy you last minute random presents because Christmas is at the forefront of their mind or they buy whatever they found in the sales…so I get either twice as much for what they would ordinarily spend (winner!), or I get whatever random crap is left in the sales after Christmas.  Then to add insult to injury people will wrap my birthday presents in ‘christmas’ wrapping paper…trying to make it look like birthday paper. Ha!  Aviana’s birthday is before Christmas so she will likely face similar issues with birthday celebrations to what I have had all my life. At least I can empathise with her!

ONE

For Aviana’s birthday this year it fell on our usual day when our sitter picks up Aviana from daycare and looks after her for the evening, enabling us either to stay late at work or go on a date night.  We ummed and ahhhed about how bad parents we would be for keeping that plan and going out to finish off our festive season shopping on our daughter’s birthday.  I know, I can hear it now – the outrage of such a thing!  Well, next year clearly we wouldn’t do that, but for her first birthday?  Not so important.  We planned to have a winter ONE’derland Birthday party in first week of January when all our friends were around, so why not go out and make use of the sitter?

Before we went out for the evening I made Aviana a ‘Doo doo’ (Aviana speak for Doggie) cake.  She opened one or two of her presents, we cooked her favourite dinner – broccoli and cheese bites followed by cake.  You know all those cake smash pictures you see from baby’s first birthday?  Well Aviana doesn’t like sticky mess on her fingers or face so she ate the cake very delicately!  No cake smashing here.  She did thoroughly enjoy it though.

It then took us THREE days to finish opening all her birthday presents! We didn’t rush her, and just let her enjoy unwrapping.  By the time we had finished with Birthday it was Christmas!  More presents!

Christmas we just stayed at home and chilled out.  First of all Santa came to visit and we opened our stockings together.  Then we cooked a roast chicken dinner with all the British traditional Christmas trimmings, opened a few presents and Aviana loved her new trike.  So we took her out in it to the park for our Christmas day walk.  It was bloody freezing and even Aviana was a little grumpy about the temperature, so it was a very quick ride around the block in her new toy!  Having said that, it was very memorable and a lovely day.  We did not get round to opening all the presents that day.  (BTW – we only bought one small present for Aviana because she had received so many from friends and family!).

THIRTY-FIVE

And so the gift opening continued into Boxing day.  Then it was time for MY Birthday!  Daycare was open so Chris took a day off work (my office was shut for the holidays) and we went on a day date for my Birthday!  That was nice to hang out just the two of us with no goal other than to enjoy each other’s company.  But the real matter of the fact was that I am now 35.

I am 35.  The same age as the Duchess of Cambridge (briefly – she’s now 36).  This is the magical age where our fertility drops off a cliff.  But apparently it is also the age that women peak at becoming more confident and happier.  I can definitely attest to the confidence thing!  The one thing I thought I would have by the time I was 35 was less spotty skin.  But no, just spotty with small wrinkles in places!  I’m still hoping and dreaming that day will come!!! 😂

A Very Scary Moment

I kissed Chris goodbye as his eyes welled up with tears and I tried to hold back mine. Aviana completely unaware she wouldn’t see daddy for two weeks, she giggled. With a stroller loaded with bags and Aviana in the meh Dai wrap in my front…I rocked it through airport security like a pro. (It is much easier to hold a baby in a carrier when going through security, getting a baby in and out of a stroller, sorting out personal items through the X-ray scanner with baby in one hand).

Once through security we still had 1.5 hours to kill until boarding despite getting held up in traffic en route to the airport and taking a while to get all checked in (one of my bags was over weight 😳 ooops!). That doesn’t sounds so bad, but if you have ever flown from Norfolk International you would know that time would drag because there is absolutely nothing interesting in departures. So with baby on my front, I pushed the stroller around hoping Aviana would fall asleep before we got on the plane. I walked all around the quiet areas, rocking and swaying trying to get her to nap on me. Just as Aviana fell asleep, suddenly, the airport fire alarm went off making high pitched beeps every 2 seconds, there was all sorts of excitement and confusion as a fire engine headed towards the building – uhoh. So that killed some time and kept Aviana awake for a bit longer. Typical. False alarm. Finally, exhausted she passed out, so I headed to the gate and waited patiently to board.

And then it happened…I kissed Aviana’s head whilst she slept with her head tilted back up at me. It was cold. So cold I panicked. I almost screamed out loud there and then WAKE UP AVIANA, PLEASE NO, DONT DIE! I put my arms around her and I couldn’t feel the rise and fall of her chest. She didn’t squirm or move like. I freaked and shoved my hand down to her neck to feel for a pulse. She was alive, but I could barely feel her breath on me, had she stopped breathing by sleeping in that position? Her skin was so cold I quickly scrambled to untie the carrier and threw it off like it was made of fire. And then….she moved. Her eyes opened for a second, as if to say ‘What the hell are you doing waking me up!!’ And they closed again back to sleep. Thank god, I cried a bit in relief!

Aviana – you freaked the HELL out of me. For a slight moment I felt like I had lost you, my heart suddenly felt like it would fall out on to the floor and my gut wrenched. It was awful. Please don’t do that again!!!

Tips for camping with an infant

Based on our camping trip last weekend, here are some tips for camping with an infant…..

  1. Don’t do it. Haha, just kidding…DO DO IT!!! Just bite the bullet. We had so many comments from fellow campers saying they wish they had done it with their kids sooner like we were.
  2. Try it out at a local camp site. It will be less stressful knowing that you can just pack up and be home within an hour if it is that terrible!
  3. Buy a pop-up tent to reduce putting up, take down time. We bought this one from Walmart for $120. We had it up and ready in 2 minutes. No fighting about which pole goes in what bit! https://www.walmart.com/ip/Ozark-Trail-13-x-9-x-72-Instant-Cabin-Tent-Sleeps-8/55196307ip/Ozark-Trail-13-x-9-x-72-Instant-Cabin-Tent-Sleeps-8/55196307
  4. Take a pack n play. Now, I have heard ideas of taking an inflatable paddling pool, or a bassinet, but Aviana would have freaked if we lay her down to sleep in any of these!!
  5. Take your white noise machine to drown out the sounds of bugs and animals, as well as the drunken loud mouthed dad shouting at his son to behave otherwise he will get a beating (yeh he was LOUD).
  6. Practice taking your infant into a shower before you go on your trip because there won’t be any baths! Or take a crap load of baby wipes.
  7. Take a crap load of baby wipes!
  8. Pack clothes for baby for every season possible. The hardest thing was trying to figure out what to put her in at night time. She normally wears a wearable blanket with a sleep suit and onesie, but our house is warm. So it was a challenge to find the right number of layers for what would have been mid 60s. Turned out it was a lot warmer than that in the end so she was fine in a thin fleece wearable blanket! And don’t forget to pack long sleeves and trousers even if it is going to be hot because of those darned mosquitoes!!!
  9. Leave the pushchair/stroller at home, because you will look silly tying to push even the baby joggers through all that mud!! Baby wearing is a must!
  10. Get dirty, let them play with leaves and pine cones…it’s an amazing sensory experience! Of which be cautious not to over load their senses too much.

We had a great weekend at Kiptopeke state park, the mozzies attacked Chris a bit more than me, he’s like a mosquito magnet! We also got attacked by horse flies on the beach, that kind of ruined the beauty of its peace and serenity! But Aviana did dip her toes in the sea and didn’t completely freak out! She slept very well and even napped during the day. Bonus! We even had our first family holiday ice cream adventure (ok so she had a fruit ice Lilly – the outshine ones made with real fruit, but full of fruit sugars!!! ).

Will we do it again? Yes!! Next proper camping adventure will probably be when we go to the US west coast next year! Can’t wait! I know she will be older and there will be different challenges (crappy weather!) but hopefully we now have a bit of confidence that we can do it!

Dear Mum…

Dear Mum,

Thank you for helping us in every way that you do with Aviana.

Thank you for not being judgemental in how we choose to parent and supporting us in all our decisions. Even if they don't always align with what you would choose.

Thank you for your well considered advice on becoming new parents. We know you have lots of experience raising me and my brothers over the past 34 years, yet you recognise that it's been 18 years since you raised a newborn baby and things in the medical world have changed since then. But babies are still babies and the way you love them and show that love hasn't changed over those years. So your experience and advice matters still.

Thank you for loving Aviana, and spoiling her too. She's only been in this world for eight months or so yet she is so loved. And distance doesn't matter as much as you think because she now can show you that she appreciates that love with an excited smile and coo at you on FaceTime. It's quite clear!

I'm grateful that you are not a baby boomer grandparent like what is described in this article…Here about grandparent baby boomers …I don't think you are loathe to give help, but rather the complete opposite!

It's hard living thousands of miles away from you, so thank you for offering to do all that you can despite the fact. We miss you greatly and hope distance doesn't stop the love from ever growing.

I wanted you to know, granny, that you are appreciated by all of us and are grateful to have you, lots of love Xxx

Even if you are a crazy plane spotter!!!

Things I didn’t know I could do until I had a baby

Things I didn't know I could do until I had a baby….

…Undress myself with one hand whilst holding my baby to go pee…

…Redress myself with one hand whilst holding my baby after peeing. MUCH HARDER!

…Eat a plate of food in 2 minutes (actually I learned this skill in the military but it was only 5 minutes then!)

…Have the patience of a saint – whilst my baby slaps me in the mouth, pokes my eye out and scratches my chest whilst she nurses (no she doesn't do this on purpose, she's just a baby!)

…Have the balancing skills of a world champion gymnast…because my baby is precious cargo and I don't want to walk up the stairs for the umpteenth time.

And so the list begins!! Everyday is a school day as a new parent!!! What are your new found skills? What new skills do I have to look forward to as my baby turns into a toddler?

The staycation

It's been a while because I have been on staycation! My mother is visiting so I took a week off work, and took Aviana out of daycare for the whole week. Chris still was working so it wasn't really a whole family staycation.

First of all the weather was awesome. We lucked out there! We were able to get out and about without being roasted by the sun because the previous few weeks we had weather in the over 100F climes. Eughhhh!

It was lovely to spend quality time with Aviana because sometimes at the weekend we just need to get admin stuff done and that quality time is shorter than I'd like it to be. She also 'recovers' from her lack of sleep during the week at daycare and naps for much longer at the weekend. This week of staycation we saw some amazing progress in Aviana's milestones, which was cool…..these are her new grooves…

  • Aviana has started to take steps walking whilst we hold her hands. Ummmm I'm not ready for this kind of movement just yet!
  • She has become more vocal and varied in her words, dada, mama, Gaga and haaaaaa….which she uses when she sees the cats. It's sooooo cute.
  • She can really chew now and does quite well with her solids including minced and steewed beef!! Show her a piece of bread and she'll be your best friend forever ☺️ this staycation enabled me to try new recipes from the baby cook book that adults eat too, giving me a whole bunch of food to freeze for lunches at daycare and dinners if we need something quick. She loves ice lollies, we found some fruit and veggie ones she will devour! A real treat for both her to eat and us to watch her eat!
  • No teeth yet, although when we look at her bottom gums it looks like two are just hanging out there waiting to pop!!! I wonder how she will deal with it when they do decide to make an appearance!

I nursed Aviana the whole week and at first her distracted nursing was getting on my nerves and my patience was wearing thin, but after a few days we both got back into the swing of it. Occasionally I had to nurse her in the car or go somewhere quiet whilst we were out and about. But apart from that overall I loved nursing her more often and has made me miss her more this week now I'm back at work 😔

We have taken advantage of granny staying with us and so started our big project of paving and graveling our vegetable garden!!!

We've also had a couple of nights out too for date nights. Woohooo!!!

This staycation has been fun! I need to do more of them. In fact because I get more annual leave than Chris generally I should plan to use it up seeing the sights and sounds of the local area! And so this is our new way of life with a baby…and I feel so lucky I get to have it that way ☺️

The one working mother stereotype you are wrong about

Let’s talk about mis-perceptions and stereotypes about working mothers.  Here are a few stereotypes that are mostly wrong….

  • Working mothers don’t pay enough attention to their families
  • Working mothers only work because they want to avoid taking care of their children
  • Working mothers look down on stay-at-home mothers
  • It’s impossible to be a good mother and for a working mother be good at their job
  • Working mothers are only working because their husband doesn’t earn enough to let them stay at home

Are your eyes rolling yet??!

And it is this particular one that I want to talk about….

Working mothers must hate that someone else is raising their kid.

I don’t speak for all working mothers obviously, but for me this is very wrong.  Firstly, let’s talk about someone else ‘raising’ our kid.  Chris and I are BOTH raising Aviana, whereas the teachers at daycare are doing what they are good at…caring for and teaching our daughter.  Raising, teaching, caring for a child…they all sound very similar.  But there is a difference in these words, and saying that someone else is raising my daughter whilst I am work is simply wrong.  (Note, I am referencing here a teacher because that is what they are called at my daycare).

Would you compare a teacher to a parent?  No.  Would you compare a parent to a teacher? No.  Because parents don’t have qualifications and teachers do?  But just because a teacher has a qualification doesn’t make them a good teacher, just like there are many good and bad parents out there.  And, by the way, I am not saying that parenting skills aren’t transferable to teaching, they can be.  What I do believe is that we have chosen a care provider with teachers who are complimentary to the way that Chris and I raise Aviana.

I am not sure what “that way” is….I can’t label it as we are raising Aviana X way or Y way, but let’s just say it feels right.  Sometimes Chris and I talk about what is important to us in how we raise Aviana.  The values and beliefs that we cherish as a family.  I think we tested these out before we got married and we are quite compatible in our values in beliefs, although we don’t always have the same beliefs, we know generally what the differences are and why.  I am sure there are situations we haven’t thought of discussing and they may change in the future, ultimately if we keep the communication channels open between us we will figure it out.  That’s the only way to parent, right?! Because you don’t know until you are in that moment there and then. I digress…

As a working mother, I do not feel guilty or jealous that someone else is caring for my daughter whilst I work during the week.  I choose not to be a stay at home parent – if I had a job that barely covered child care costs then I may have chosen to be a stay at home parent if my job really sucked.  In my mind, being a stay at home parent is like a full time job…you just don’t get paid for it!  I also don’t have a choice to be a stay at home parent if we want to live here in the US because of my visa (but that’s another story).  The argument that we won’t be there to see her take her first step or say her first word is also not valid.  We won’t miss any of this, the moment will still be magical when she first does it for either of us.

Haha that reminds me…a side note…we did miss a funny ‘first’ new trick Aviana had yesterday.  When Chris picked her up from daycare yesterday the teacher told Chris Aviana’s new trick of the day – holding other babies hostage.  Apparently whilst Aviana was sat in her ‘throne of power’ two other babies crawled over to play with her and she grabbed both of them and wouldn’t let them go.  Not in an aggressive way because she is only 7 months old, she just didn’t want her class mates to leave her 😉

So all in all, I don’t hate that someone else is caring for my daughter 40 hours a week, I’m not jealous and I don’t feel guilty.  I also certainly do not believe that someone else is raising my daughter in those 40 hours, Chris and I are the ones doing that, aka – parenting.

 

 

 

 

The first Independence day

Independence Day/4th July – a conflict of emotions for a dual US-UK citizen? I wouldn’t know because I’m a UK citizen, but I live in the US, so I know a bit about it. But my daughter is a dual citizen, so in sure some day she will tell me about that.

In the UK we are not taught at school about the revolutionary war, or much about US history as a matter of fact, we have quite a bit of our own history to get through first ;-p. So much of what I know about it is what I have learned since moving to Virginia. Which turns out to be a great place to live and learn about the war of independence. So whether we decide to stay long enough for Aviana to learn about it at school in the US or not, we will be able to teach her the history. 

So what about the celebrations? Well, much of what I have experienced for 4th July is about getting together with friends and family to eat, typically have a BBQ party (grill out), wear red, white and blue, see a parade or two and watch some fireworks! It’s a lot of fun. Until you bring out the Union Jack flag…..ha! Just kidding. This year we went to the beach, hung out with friends and then went to a friend’s house to hang out at their pool. It was fun! I think we can continue a tradition of celebrating Independence Day for Aviana’s sake. But we must not forget to teach her the British holidays too whilst we are here in the US. Like the Queen’s jubilee and Guy Fawkes night. However, seeing as fireworks are illegal here it won’t be much fun on the 5th November!

Having a dual citizen daughter without one of the parents being one nationality is a bit strange because we should learn the traditions, but we don’t have attachment to them so they probably won’t be genuine? I don’t know, perhaps if we stay here long enough we will learn them, if we left the US tomorrow I’m not sure how much of the American traditions we would take back with us, but I certainly want to try. I think it’s important to create opportunity for Aviana to take some American cultural identity if she wants it. Until she is old enough to make those kind of decisions herself we will offer that opportunity at the least! 

Hope those of you who celebrated had a wonderful holiday! 

Celebrating with a red white and blue French toast – how apt 😝

We will never be equal

Last night after Chris read my blog post Chris told me the truth of the matter….we won’t ever be equal because of my work travels. And he is right. If I travel 8-10 times a year, some of these trips being 8 days long then I will struggle to make that up to be equal. Admittedly he will travel occasionally for work but it would be in the US and not transatlantic and for a few days at a time. Also, if he travels I have the leave to be able to travel with him (if he gets to go somewhere fun!!).

We have talked about this quite a bit recently and it’s going to be tough. It’s not exactly a holiday for me, but I will get a ‘break’ from parenting (except the huge guilt I will feel) and he won’t. We have a nanny once a week and maybe we can use her to help out Chris a bit more when I am away. Only time will tell how tough it really will be. Almost everyone else in my team has children and they survive. Just got to figure out how they do it well!

The dream? All working parents created equal

I was inspired to write this post after I read a ‘Working Mother’ article “14 things my parents never had to do because my mom didn’t work“.  It was going good up until points 10: Manage the household from the office; 11: Manage the household at home; and 12: Worrying about traveling for work.  The author says that she has to “…make doctor’s appointments, go grocery shopping, plan birthday parties in between meetings.  This is true, it’s got to get done at some point during the working week.  But your working husband also probably can do that stuff too? Right?  She then says she is “…still primarily responsible for cooking dinner, cleaning the house and organizing their social life“. Hmmmm, your husband can also do that too, no? Finally, when she goes on work travels she has to “…prepare everything in her absence from my daughter’s wardrobe to preparing frozen meals for my husband“.  OK, so yes, sure, when a partner goes away on work travel you need to be supportive and help make it easier on the person left behind.  But the choice of ‘chores’ that need to be done are soooooooo stereotypical.  Really?  Your husband can’t make wardrobe choices on his own?  Is he able to dress himself?  I presume so because it sounds like he still makes it to work everyday without getting fired. So why can’t he dress a child?  He really can’t cook his own food? My goodness, how did he ever survive before he met you?????  After reading this and getting me mad and upset, it got me thinking more about the ideal working parents situation and equality.  Are all parents ‘created’ equal?  Is it actually possible??

Chris and I are pretty equal in most things.  Before Aviana arrived into our world we shared chores.  There are some things that Chris is better at doing than I am and vice versa.  There are also some things that Chris prefers doing than I do and vice versa.  So we always tried to make things equal: one night Chris would cook and I would wash up, then we would swap the next day.  I would put the washing on, Chris would hang it up, the next time we may swap.  And then we negotiated on other chores.  I did X if Chris did Y.  We also hired a cleaner (Something I would happily give up anything else for….clothes, tea, haribo, driving to work….if we ever needed to financially cut back somewhere, it’s a marriage saver in my mind). Grocery shopping, decorating, tidying, gardening, organising, bill paying….etc.  we are pretty equal.  Yes, there are odd times when we have to assess the balance, but we often do it on conditions at the time: our health and work.

We are also pretty equal on the work front too.  We take home similar amounts of pay.  Although Chris gets a bonus whereas I do not!  We are also the same age, and therefore have similar amounts of work experience.  We are progressing similarly in terms of accountability and responsibility, although we do very different jobs, and therefore different types of stresses, but our workloads ebb and flow for both of us.

Now we have new jobs to add to our life resumes/CVs.  Parenthood!  We are equally experienced in this new role…as in, we both have very little experience!  The question I have is, is it possible to be equal parents in life too?  Does it matter if Chris is mummy and I am daddy?  Do these labels mean anything in terms of the roles we play as parents and how we raise our daughter?

Currently there is an imbalance.  First of all, physically I grew Aviana inside me and I am also the milk provider.  Chris does feed her bottles, so it’s not like he has zero responsibility for this.  Secondly, I have just spent almost 7 months off work on maternity leave.  I have been Aviana’s caregiver during working hours and weeks and past couple of weeks I have been on ‘vacation’, getting things in order around the house, enjoying two weeks of holiday with my family and relaxing a little bit.  Although I have been back to work for a couple of odd weeks during my maternity leave and a few days here and there, this week I am back to work officially, properly, full speed ahead.  Eeeek.

The balance will shift.  But to what? Will it be equal? How will we adjust to our ‘ideals’? How will we negotiate chores?  How will we decide whose meeting is more important when we have to pick up a sick Aviana from daycare?  How will we decide who does each parenting task like feeding, bathing and dressing our baby?  Because we are both equally capable of these tasks.  And pretty much any other future task.  Party planning, birthday gift buying, holidays, doctors, caregivers, blah blah blah.

How will we adjust when we have different ways of doing these parenting tasks?  What will we do when one of us thinks we are doing it wrong, do we let it go?  Do we debate?  Do we continue to negotiate?  Do we have time to be equal?

How much do we want to pay for convenience like we do with our cleaners, gardeners and other services such as online shopping, food preparation, holiday planning etc?  How much is our time worth in ‘outsourcing’ so we can spend more time with Aviana?

I’m nervous.  I have expectations to be an equal working parent, but in reality it will probably be different.  I’m just not sure how it’s going to be.  Will my annoyance with that article I read be proven to be naivety on my part?  I hope not.

How equal is your parenting with your partner?  Is it what you thought it would be?  What would you do differently if you could go back in time? Does any of this ‘equality’ ideals even matter?