Category Archives: What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Microblog Mondays: Bleary

We’ve had four nights back home now, after the epic trip back (which, thanks to P., who was both cutting a tooth and making a developmental leap, was by far the worst flight we’ve ever experienced).

I don’t love to travel.

I love to be somewhere new (or comfortingly not new, in the case of Australia), but I don’t love the process of getting there.

I don’t love flying- I can’t sleep on planes and I’m a nervous flyer.

I hate jet lag.

Usually, when we go to Australia, I have a moment somewhere around the eight or nine hour mark in the second flight (when there’s still six or seven hours left and I’ve missed an entire night of sleep) where I think to myself “WHY are we DOING this??!!”

And then we land and the sun is just so bright and there are cockatoos and kookaburras in the trees and the hours and hours spent stuck in that cramped seat are worth it.

Coming home is always harder, even though the flight is shorter. Our vacation is over and we have to try to return to our usual routine as quickly as possible. I’m reminded that I’m the adult every time I come home from a trip and our house looks the same as how we left it and we’re the ones who have to make dinner and buy the groceries and do the laundry, etc.

The worst part about being the adult right now is it means I have to fix my children’s jet lag before I can fix my own. We learned from our mistakes the first time we took E. to Australia (when he was the same age P. is now), so we ignored the clock and focused on establishing a twelve hour day. Once that was established we started waking them up progressively earlier to shift when their day “started”. After four nights they’re both pretty much back on EST, and P. last night didn’t wake up for longer than it took for her to nurse (as opposed to the previous three nights where she woke up and was then tired but unable to fall back asleep for an hour or two).

Me?

Last night I slept from midnight until 3 a.m. (insert rolling eyes emoji here)

Hopefully now that they’re sorted out I’ll follow suit within a day or two.

How well do you handle jet lag? Does it affect your desire to travel?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Microblog Mondays, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Quiet

Last night I sent the two people  most precious to me in all the world through airport security where they would get on a plane and fly the long arc down across the ocean to a sun-burnt country.

They are somewhere over the Pacific right now as I type. I know their flight got into YVR on time, and that they left YVR a bit early. They should touch down at SYD around 6:15 p.m. my time, a little more than 24 hours after I said goodbye.

E. was fine saying goodbye. I think we gave him just enough lead time (one week) that he was able to process through his anxiety about the separation and by the time we got to the airport he was just excited to get on the plane. I picked him up for one last hug and he said, “Mummy, I think we might miss the plane if we do not go through security soon.” All right, kiddo. I get it. You’re ready.

I wasn’t.

My sister, C., came with us so that I did not have to drive back from the airport alone. She ended up doing the driving, as I have a miserable cold that is badly disrupting my sleep and I am not really functioning all that well. Her crazy ‘avoid traffic’ app took us on a convoluted route that did, eventually, as promised, lead us to where we needed to go, and we could chat the whole way and we weren’t stuck in traffic like we would have been on the highway. A successful trip all round.

The house is very quiet. I got out my best stuffed animal, the cougar that has been my most special of friends ever since I was two and a half. I still sleep with him when Q. is away because I have a ridiculously overactive imagination and I can’t cope otherwise. It’s an effort not to put a light on somewhere upstairs when I’m in the bed alone.

I worked out last night that I have never been alone in the house since E. was born. I have spent nights away from E., two full weeks when I went to the UK early in 2013, but I’ve always been the one to be somewhere else. And when Q. has been away, I have been here, with E.

It is strange that this used to be my normal. That we spent two and a half years in this house, just the two of us and the cats, and I would be alone whenever Q. was away. Now the house is so thoroughly permeated with E’s presence, it is hard to believe that he is gone and that I will not be able to hug him again for a month.

It was the right decision. He will have a wonderful time down under. It will be good for him to have so much time with his father, especially since Q. will be doing more of the school pick ups next semester because of my teaching schedule. And I have a lot of work to do, not least because I just picked up a third course  yesterday (the course director took another job and quit halfway through the year).

And there is a part of me that is looking forward to getting my own breakfasts without having to organize someone else’s first; to be able to take a long shower without having that tiny pulse of anxiety wondering whether maybe this time my child might not be just sitting downstairs quietly reading a book, but might have hurt himself; to be able to make plans for the afternoon that can go past 3:05 p.m.; to make dinners that don’t meet with Q.’s approval (beans and goose sausage wienies, I’m looking at you). And I’m looking forward to going home for the holidays to be able to visit with my family without the added layer of Q. and E., because as much as I love watching my son play with his grandparents and his aunties, it will be nice to be able to have some long conversations.

I might even be really daring and go out and see a movie or two while I’m still at home by myself. With popcorn even!

Q. and I went out for lunch yesterday to have a bit of time together before the flight (lunches with Q. is one of the best results of E. being in school). He was a bit worried that E. might eat too much junk food and watch too much television and go to bed too late while they were away. In general he felt discipline might break down entirely.

“Whatever,” I said. “It’s a month. Let him have fun. As long as he gets enough sleep and eats on a regular basis and doesn’t get a sunburn, who cares about the rest.”

I never stop being a mother. But for the next month, I am no longer responsible for E.

That is weird and freeing in equal measure.

I am going to miss them.

But I am also going to make sure I do not waste this time to myself.

It will likely not come again for a very long time.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Down Under, E.- the fifth year, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Don’t Forget the Map!

Microblog_MondaysQ., E. and I were away on the weekend, squeezing every last drop out of our glorious summer. My supervisor (also one of Q.’s colleagues) very kindly invited us up to his cottage for the weekend, and even the thought of talking shop non-stop wasn’t enough to keep us from saying, “Yes, please!”

Turns out the shop-talk was kept to a relative minimum (although there was this truly hilarious moment where my supervisor wondered where on earth E. gets his loquacious manner, given Q. and I “aren’t very talkative. I’m mean you’re all very civilized obviously, but you don’t waste words.” This is mostly funny if you know my supervisor and understand that you CANNOT get a word in edge-wise with this man.) There was loads of time for canoeing, swimming, falling in love with (yet) another lake, and eating too much good food. E. was in tears when it was time to come home and invited himself back again next year (which my supervisor seemed to think was a wonderful idea, hurrah!).

The drive home became miserable at the predictable point, where Highway With Reasonable Amount of Returning Cottage Traffic met Highway of Doom, so we hopped off, stopped for dinner and decided to plot an alternative route.

This led to the following conversation with our waitress:

Me: “Do you know an alternative route into Big City We Call Home that doesn’t involve driving on Highway of Doom?”
Waitress: “Oh, I am so bad with directions. What if you just tell your GPS to avoid highways? That should work.”
Me: “It’s a rental car. It doesn’t have a GPS.”
Waitress: “What about on your phone?”
Q. and Me, looking sheepish: “Umm. We don’t have smartphones…”
Supremely Patient and Helpful Waitress: “Oh.” *total confusion for a moment* “I’ll just go get mine and look for you.”

We left her a big tip and set off with her directions and got lost, as it turns out, almost immediately, but it all worked out because we drove past a gas station (which we had been looking for) and bought a mini road atlas of the south of the province and then discovered we could pretty easily get onto Alternative Small Highway which we have used multiple times before, as our general rule of driving is NEVER DRIVE on Highway of Doom, but we’d forgotten our provincial road map. This was foolish.

We took Alternative Small Highway and had a very easy trip home.

Lesson learned: If you’re not going to enter the twenty-first century by getting a smartphone, don’t forget your map (or your new handy pocket sized road atlas).

Is there anyone else out there who doesn’t have a smartphone? It seems to be mostly when we’re stuck in traffic we wish we had one.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Microblog Mondays, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Travel tips

Dear Turia,

Here are some helpful things to remember the next time you travel down under.

  • It is actually winter there at this time of year. I know it’s ‘winter’ and there’s no snow, and half the time the daytime high is comparable to a pleasant spring day in your part of the Great White North, but your memories weren’t exaggerating about how cold the houses were going to be. Yes, you can pack your slippers and your giant cozy sweater. No, they are not taking up too much space.
  • But pack some shorts. And if you go to the coast, take them. You might get to wear them. Packing six pairs of shorts for E., however, is ambitious.
  • Don’t bother bringing running gear unless you are actually running regularly BEFORE you leave for the airport. You’ve done this twice now. If you’re not in a pattern of regular running before the holiday, you’re not going to magically find the time to start while there. Stop wasting space that your giant cozy sweater could be using.
  • Stop thinking you’re going to read books on the plane. You won’t have the brain capacity. Just admit you’re going to watch movies (at least when E.’s not asking you questions), and stop packing books. They’re heavy.
  • Learn to say no to alcohol, puddings, morning and afternoon teas, etc., at least some of the time. If you’re not running, you can’t eat whatever you want, whenever you want, for a month without consequences.
  • Do whatever it takes to achieve a quiet life on the plane. You’re never going to see those people again. If E. is happy to watch 17 hours of television, and he’s quiet the whole flight (because he’s either sleeping or watching television) except for when he’s shrieking with laughter at the television, call that a win. You are not a bad parent for doing this.
  • Do not turn into your mother. Yes, I understand that you’ve been sucked into the world of bird-watching. Q. has a very low tolerance for such activities. Strive for the happy medium.
  • Don’t think it will be a cheap holiday. Yes, you’re staying with family. Yes, you’re not doing a lot of travelling around. But you seem to always forget how expensive Q.’s country is, and how much Q.’s family likes to eat out. Coffees cost $4 and tea isn’t any cheaper. Just get used to it.
  • Use jet lag to your advantage. All routines go out the window on such a trip. Why not embrace the chaos and use it for good? Upon returning from this trip you managed to get E. to start brushing his teeth after breakfast, to get dressed after breakfast, to sleep in his medium-sized guy bed rather than a crib, and to start sitting on (and using!!!) the potty. All without arguments or hysterics. Frankly, looking at that list, the sky’s the limit.
  • Don’t think of it as a ‘vacation’. It’s not going to be relaxing. It will probably get easier as E. gets older, but it’s never going to feel like a break. You’re going to come home exhausted. Make sure to take lots of pictures and see some things you’ve never seen before. That’s what you’ll remember in the years to come.
  • Don’t regret the life you have. Oz has a funny habit of putting on a good show every time you go to visit. The weather’s amazing, Q.’s city has the most beautiful harbour in the world (and you never get tired of the view from the train as you ride across the Bridge), the newspapers are better, the dairy products are amazing, the trains are so much more civilized. Remember that you can’t afford to live in Q.’s city. Remember how much you hate the summers there. Remember that most things that crawl or slither can kill you. Remember that there is a casual acceptance of racism that you were never able to be reconciled to. Remember how far away it is from everywhere else. It is the best place in the world to visit, but you don’t want to stay there forever.
  • Try to be nicer. Granted, a month is too long to spend with family (as you and Q. both agree). Granted, they are going to say some truly hurtful things that imply your life as it stands must be terrible because you don’t live where they do, and they are going to continue to ask some truly ignorant questions about your country (no matter how many times they come to visit), and they are going to make some very passive-aggressive (or sometimes just plain aggressive) judgments about your parenting and about your son. Remember that Q. chose you. He loves you. You have a good life. His family misses him terribly, and they don’t understand why he moved across the world. Remember that they love E. with all their hearts. Try to cut them a bit more slack, even when they are driving you absolutely fucking crazy. You make this resolution every time you visit. Try to keep it next time.

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Filed under Down Under, Family, Running, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Resurfacing

Well, hello again.

So where am I at?

When last I wrote, I was facing down the start of a ridiculous month of deadlines. I was, not to put too fine a point on it, panicking.

Here’s what happened.

I eventually gave up and went to my doctor and got antibiotics so that I could stop being sick. I just couldn’t shake it on my own.

I marked all of my students’ assignments and tallied their final grades.

I finished the draft of my dissertation and gave it to my supervisor on time.

The next week I wrote the first conference paper and presented it. It was well received. I wrote the second conference paper while away at the first conference.

Then I wrote my final language exam. I thought I had done well enough that I might maybe, maybe, squeak a viva rather than being failed outright.

They passed me outright. No idea how I managed that, given the mess I made of the final passage, but I’ll take it and run. That made for all four translation exams (two ancient, two modern) passed on the first attempt. I’m the only graduate student in my program to have done this.

The day after the language exam I gave my second conference paper. It was fine.

That weekend my supervisor sent back my thesis, which he had actually read, and read carefully, in two weeks (this is pretty much unheard of in academia). He sent it back with 28 pages of typed comments. Not one was “you have to rewrite this entire chapter/section because it is terrible”.

That Monday Q. went overseas for three weeks. I was on my own with E. for a week, and then had two weeks with grandparents there to help (my dad for the first, my mum for the second).

I worked 12-14 hour days on the dissertation those two weeks. My days went like this: wake up in a panic around 5 a.m. and work at the kitchen table until E. woke up. Then have breakfast with E., and take him to nursery school if it was a nursery school day. Then go to the library. Work until a bit before 5, with a fifteen or twenty minute break for lunch (as much time as it took to get down to the cafeteria level, eat a sandwich, and go back up to the stacks), then get home in time to cook dinner. After dinner put E. to bed and then work until 10:30 or 11 p.m. before going to bed. Repeat.

I am so grateful my parents were able to help. I wouldn’t have been able to get the revisions done otherwise. Even if Q. had been here, he would have had his own deadlines to meet, and I needed every single hour I could get.

I didn’t get every i dotted and every t crossed. This led me to have a massive anxiety attack one night when it became apparent I was going to have to make substantial changes to the introduction where I just lay in bed and cried until I fell asleep, but by the morning I had accepted this and could focus on finishing what I could finish rather than stressing about the revisions that needed more time than I could give them at that point.

But I got it done.

Q. got home on a Saturday night.

Sunday night I finished the table of contents and then turned the draft into a PDF.

Monday morning Q. went up to work, printed the draft out and delivered the hard copies to my committee members, while I did my last duty day at E.’s nursery school.

Monday afternoon Q. and I packed, took apart E.’s crib, and set up his new medium-sized bed.

Late Monday afternoon I picked E. up from nursery school. We had just enough time at home for a quick snack (making sure he didn’t go up and see the change in his room) and then my sister drove us to the airport. That night we flew down under, where we’ve been for the last month, and where I thought I’d have loads of time to blog except that it turned out my MIL scheduled pretty much our every waking minute.

It’s been a bit manic, to be honest.

We’re home now, jet lagged as anything (two nights ago E. slept for less than four hours total), but glad to be back.

Expect more from this space in the near future.

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Filed under (Pre)School Days, Anxiety Overload, Down Under, Family, PhD, The Sick, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Priorities

I did our taxes last week.

It was quite a good result in the end.

I knew we were going to get money back, but we are going to get back quite a lot more than I was expecting/hoping for.

Here’s the thing: it took me four days to realize I hadn’t once looked at that final refund tally and thought, “That’s a really big chunk of a full IVF cycle.”

I didn’t even look at it and think, “Well, we’ll have the money for that FET no matter what happens with my teaching in the fall.”

When I first reached the end of the program, and saw the total, what I mainly thought was this:

I want to get a cottage.

And then I thought about how Q. wants to take down our old shed and replace it this summer, and how we are redoing the roof in the spring, and how this tax refund just gives us that little bit more breathing space while my income for next year is so up in the air. And I told myself not to be frivolous.

Q. had the same thought I did.

So we’re going to be frivolous with some of it, we who are never frivolous with our money. We’re going to rent a cottage for a week in late August.

It isn’t fancy, but it has a screened in porch and a canoe and it looks out over a lake and there is deep, clear water off the dock and a shallow entry into the water from the shore with a patch of sandy beach where E. will be able to potter around with his buckets and his shovels (and, let’s face it, his trucks).

We’re going to have a family holiday, just us three.

I’m tired of mortgaging our present for a potential future that I can hardly bring myself to believe might yet come to be.

I want to build memories with E.

Most of all, I need a distraction.

On the other path, the future that I thought was going to happen but isn’t now, I wouldn’t have been able to travel in the week we’ve rented the cottage.

I would have been as big as a house.

I would have been seeing my midwives every week.

Instead, I will swim and canoe and read and stargaze and build sand castles with my son.

And maybe, just maybe, be happy.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Family, Grief, Loss, Money Matters, Second Thoughts, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Little pitchers have big ears

Maybe we shouldn’t have told E.

He has been confused.

Puzzled.

Questioning.

He talks less about the baby now, but we have yet to have had a day where he doesn’t mention it, doesn’t ask me to “explain again why there isn’t going to be a baby in September anymore”.

But.

We have been going through a very very difficult time with E. over the last few months. I haven’t written much about it on here, because it has just been so hard.

E. completely rejected his father.

He would order his father to go back out of the house as soon as Q. got in from work.

He would shriek “No, no, no!” if Q. asked him a question, but answer it without any fuss if I asked.

He would Lose.His.Mind. if Q. tried to do anything for him if I was in the house.

If he woke up- from a nap, in the middle of the night, in the morning- and Q. went in instead of me, E. would immediately become hysterical, screaming for his father to get out of his room.

Some nights he wouldn’t even kiss him good night before I took him up to bed.

And don’t even talk to me about bedtime.

I posted about it on my birth club, and with my infertility friends, and the general consensus was that we just had to push on through and teach E. that he couldn’t always expect Mummy to do everything.

But then it got so bad that bedtimes, if Q. was doing them, were a fifty minute (or longer) ordeal with E. screaming his head off and fighting his father, every single step of the way, to the point that I would be sobbing downstairs listening to them.

We tried sharing the bedtime, where I did bath and pjs and then Q. did stories, songs and goodnight, but it wasn’t any better. E. would be fine with me, and then lose his shit as soon as Q. took over.

E. was so frantic, so miserable, so hysterical, that Q. and I talked about it and decided to just go with it. He obviously needed something, and he needed it from me. And it was breaking Q.’s heart every single time he tried to do something with E. and E. rejected him.

The fighting at bedtime was damaging their relationship.

So we stopped pushing E., and I took over and did almost everything E.-related from mid-December onwards.

It started in the fall, so we originally thought it was related to the disruptions from moving back. Then we thought it might be related to E. starting at nursery school- that he was clinging even harder to me on days when I was around because of the days where he was away from me.

We figured it was, like everything, a phase. A truly horrible phase, to be sure, but a phase nonetheless. One that would end eventually.

Here’s the thing: from the moment we told E. about the pregnancy, his attitude towards his father began to thaw. And this past weekend, it was like the last few months never happened.

Thursday night, after it happened, Q. put E. to bed while I lay on the couch downstairs.

E. didn’t fuss about this at all.

When he woke up (after a huge sleep) on Saturday, he called out, “Mummy, Daddy, Mummy, Daddy, Mummy, Daddy. I’m ready to get up  now.”

Q. went to get him.

E. gave him a big smile.

Yesterday, Q. and E. spent a happy hour and a half building paper airplanes and flying them around the kitchen and building paper boats and sailing them in the bathtub while I lay on the couch and read.

E. now interrupts our  nightly routine of two rounds of Sleeping Bunnies at least three times a night to run and kiss Q., who is in the kitchen doing the dishes.

This is a complete reversal of how he was behaving all through the fall, and especially in December, when things got so much worse.

It might be coincidence.

It could be that it was just something developmental and he’s worked his way through it, in the same way as he’s suddenly started using “I” and “me” to refer to himself rather than “you”.

But, in retrospect, it’s entirely possible that his rejection of his father stemmed from displacement anxiety about my frequent visits to the doctor. This especially makes sense with how much worse it got in December, when he wasn’t in nursery school most of the time, and when Q. was around more often too. It should have got better in December, not worse.

Except we did the IVF in December.

If, if I am right, and his rejection of his father was tied to his fears about why I was at the doctor so often, telling him about the pregnancy- giving him a reason, a good reason, for me being at the doctor- was the best thing we could have done.

And that makes it worth the untelling.

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Filed under (Pre)School Days, 2.0 Pregnancy, E.- the third year, Grief, Loss, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)