Planes, Trains, Cars, Buses, Big Ships and Babies: Some insights into traveling with a large tribe of children

So this has put the nail in the coffin of our ambitions to have a fifth child. No. Way.

There has been almost nothing relaxing about the past 6 weeks of globe-trotting. Don’t get me wrong, it has been amazing, and we have planted memories that will last a lifetime in our little people’s hearts and minds. The past weeks have seen us spend some fantastic family time together. It has also been packed full of chaos and cringe-inducing moments.

Adam with Red in Vatican City
Adam with Red in Vatican City

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Pompeii, it was HOT!
Pompeii, it was HOT!
Grumpy and Steph with Red at Breakfast last day on the cruise
Grumpy and Steph with Red at Breakfast last day on the cruise
Goofy and our goofy boys.
Goofy and our goofy boys.
Vatican City with four kids is not exactly relaxing...
Vatican City with four kids is not exactly relaxing…

We have faced: varied schedules, greetings and goodbyes, jet-lag, frequent connections, jam-packed itineraries, a hefty helping of homesickness, exhaustion, tantrums, teething, bickering, bathroom emergencies at the most inopportune moments, much swearing (mostly me), concerned Canadians, surly Spaniards, abuse spewed at me at the airport in Montreal because I had a crying infant for 90 minutes solid on the plane, rudeness at restaurants, other people’s children, sweltering heat, long days, sugar highs, sugar crashes, screaming baby, whining, whimpering, wallowing, wandering, wondering, and walking. So. Much. Walking.

So there was that.

But there was also: swimming in pools and rivers, snorkeling in the Mediterranean, fine wine, good food, kind strangers, helpful people at every turn who offered a hand with the children in many different ways, new and familiar places, family, friends, summer breezes, dust road sneezes, ice-creams and brain freezes, laughter, tickles, cuddles, snuggles, movies, theatre shows, magic tricks, puzzles, and so much more wonderfulness; I will, however, spare you my inane chatter.
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Loved the statues in Rome
Loved the statues in Rome

Here are a few things I have learned about traveling with a large family that I’ll share with you.

1) Plan

Back in the TBC (Time Before Children) we were able to turn on a dime and sneak off for a weekend road trip or hop a plane to someplace with very little forethought. We’d fly by the seat of our pants and let fate decide for us where we’d stay, eat, and play. We have had so many adventures traveling this way, most of which have been fantastic.

We were carrying on with this travel philosophy long after it was no longer practical. Even with three kids in tow we’d arrive in a place and just let the mood take us, without researching or thinking too long or hard about what we were going to do or how we were going to get there.

For the sake of your sanity, and the children’s health and happiness, please learn from our mistakes and plan ahead. At least a little bit.

We landed in the South of France with no plans, so decided upon touching dry land that we’d go to Eze.

Because of our total lack of research and preparedness, we took the train the two stops up the line to the bus-stop that would have taken us up the hill to the medieval town. We waited for about an hour for that bus to come. Fed the children ice creams and water, but the heat and wait got the better of us and we decided to catch the train back down to the beach. Just as we arrived on our platform, we watched the bus roll up and reward the people patient enough to wait for it to turn up.

Ah well. Maybe next time.

We did end up going snorkeling, and the people watching and crystal clear water was magic, so not an entirely wasted day by any stretch of the imagination.

You must have your accommodation booked so you don’t waste time searching for it and can get the kids fed and rested ASAP at each stop. Do not have them in the car, train or plane for any longer than is necessary and have things for them to do at stations and airports. Know where toilet and food stops are, and be ready to find rest stops often to let off some steam, or they will bicker until your ears bleed. That has been my experience anyway.

2) Patience

Things will go wrong. You have to know that, and not be freaked out or let it get to you.

You also must remember that you cannot ascribe to malice things that can just as easily be explained by ineptitude. We turn down the full body scanner at American airports as we’d rather not die of radiation poisoning like Madame Currie.

This is apparently fine when I am holding the baby, but they always seem to make it a very long and painful process for Grumpy and he often ends up waiting an extra 15-30 minutes than I do getting patted down, waiting, or just generally being messed around. He has decided not to take this personally, and that makes our experience a lot more pleasant.

Everything takes longer with children. Accept this. Or don’t travel.

3) Snacks

Always. Always. ALWAYS bring snacks.

4) Water

Always. Always. ALWAYS bring water.

5) Balance

Push your kids out of their comfort zones. Get them to eat the flash fried squid tentacles in Andalusia, even if they spit them out. Bring them, even as they drag their feet and protest, to cathedrals, parks, castles, monuments, ruins and so forth. Pack those little heads full of culture, and make sure you swat up on your history and local knowledge, as there will be questions and it is awesome if you can correctly answer them. We are always amazed by how much sinks in!

And then, when you have crammed their little heads so full of history, culture and new experience that they might just pop, change gears and do some mindless kid stuff.

Always make time for play parks, ice-cream stops, swims, cartoons and mindless kid-friendly blowing off steam antics. You’ll all be better for it.

And that, is just some of my advice on traveling with a large tribe of children.

Dee’s Review of the 2014 Mediterranean Disney Cruise

Dee’s Disney Cruise Review

I arranged to take this Disney cruise quite literally the same week I found out we were pregnant with our fourth child. We always do a babymoon, and this was to appease the older children more than anything.

Having cruised on NCL and Princess lines before, we had asked around and done some research, and Disney was heads and shoulders above all other lines for traveling with babies.

They are the only cruise line that will supervise children under the age of 3. There is a 9USD charge per hour for the privilege, which is exceedingly reasonable considering they feed, change, sooth and entertain your baby so you can have time to do with whatever you please.

Today I will outline our experiences for anyone considering taking a Disney cruise.

As this was our fourth child and our first big family vacation for a very long time by Hobbit standards (six months) I was given permission to book a two-bedroom suite. Very expensive. Private message me if you want to know how much and I will be glad to tell you so your jaw can drop as did Grumpy’s when he got the bill.

The Room

The suite was fabulous. Nearly the size of our first home in floor area. Three toilets, two baths and showers, two bedrooms and a fold out couch in a large and beautifully finished living area that included a large flat screen TV as well as dining table for 6. There are three single beds in a separate children’s room and a beautiful master bedroom with walk in wardrobe, dressing room and lavish on-suite bathroom including a spa. The entire room is tastefully decorated with walnut veneer, plenty of storage, and a wide selection of excellent reading materials on the bookshelves.
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We would both rate the suite a 9/10 when compared with the other lines we have cruised.

The Service:

The service was absolutely impeccable as well. The HR department deserves a pat on the back for their training and recruitment as not a negative word was uttered by any of the staff about their role, their experiences or Disney itself. I made the mistake on the last day of asking one staff member how they manage to stay so cheerful with screaming children, and being inundated with Disney EVERYTHING all the time. They were aghast by this, and said they loved everything Disney, and you know what? They meant it.

Mickey mouse at Animators Palate
Mickey mouse at Animators Palate
Mickey mouse at Animators Palate
Mickey mouse at Animators Palate

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When you cruise with Disney you get a seating schedule and rotate around all the restaurants on the ship. A team of servers follow you from restaurant to restaurant and take care of your every need. They cut up the food for the kids, nothing is too much trouble. There are seatings for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We found our lead waiter to be very politically insightful as he was from India and filled us in on the relatively new government there, as well as the state of things like the caste system and taxes. This was exceptionally eye opening and interesting to me, as there is surprisingly little general information about Indian political, economic and general affairs in the news in New Zealand. Apparently the top tax rate is around 18% and people find ways around that frequently.

His assistant was a good natured, warm and diligent woman from Jamaica. She has an 18-month-old child herself, and was amazing with the children. When I mentioned I had huge admiration for the personal sacrifices people make to fulfill these contracts and be away from the children, she was somewhat sad to think of her baby back home, but again, never uttered a single negative word and appeared to genuinely love her job and the children she was serving. I wish her all the best.

The third night of the cruise, Mickey Mouse walked through the Animators Palate restaurant, and I looked at all the happy children. The air was electrified with his presence and the joy and excitement of the children and parents around us was so real you could feel it in the form of goose pimples and chills. Some of the kids were special needs, some of them were make a wish kids. It reminded me of a cousin who I admire and Love a great deal who came on this exact itinerary cruise with her son not long before he died of an aggressive brain cancer. I started crying, and my Jamaican server gave me a big hug. I’m crying again as I write this, because it is a stark and raw reminder that life isn’t fair. And the embarrassment of riches I have been dealt must be paid forward. It was also a reminder to reinstate our family tradition of a Jack of kisses. This means five kisses, at least once a day for each of the children to remember their cousin. We have now reinvigorated this ritual and might be lucky enough to see my cousin on our way back through Canada in a few days.

Our room attendant was also from Jamaica. She had her 39th birthday while we were on the ship, so I got her a bottle of perfume from the store to wish her a happy birthday. She was gentle, kind, efficient, courteous, friendly and professional. My excitable and chatty daughter had a birthday a couple of days later, and Janice got her a lovely gift. She really went above and beyond in every way.

The Concierge

Staying in a suite you get a concierge service. Our concierge was originally from Zimbabwe and resides in South Africa. He was good-humoured, efficient, professional, courteous, and was in contact with us daily.

He went to great lengths to make us comfortable. The thing I personally found most refreshing was how human he was, and we he was the only person who was not appalled when I shared with him my exhaustion at the uber-formulaic Disney EVERYTHING. There are people who are so obsessed with Disney that they choose these cruises or Disney vacations every time they travel. We are not those people. In fact, we felt considerably like fish out of water in general, as our children did not have the Disney garb, nor did we make a massive effort at the trademark Pirate party.

He accepted that about us. And didn’t look at us as if we had leprosy if my trade-mark potty mouth came out, or if we expressed how uncomfortable we were with the terrific level of twee and extreme Disney everything. For that, I am very grateful indeed.

Amenities

The facilities were clean and functional. The trademark Disney extravagances and surreal veneers were impenetrable.

The childcare facilities for my youngest son were fabulous. The manager of the facility was a young lady from Scotland with a refreshingly dry (but still personable and cheerful) way about her. They took great care of James and settled him after he threw up several times (as he does) after his bottle.

He always came home happy and relaxed, and they changed nappies and played with him and were not daunted by the fact he needs to be held and entertained constantly. They had him over 20 hours on the cruise, and let me come down to breastfeed him and called if he was upset. 10/10 for these guys!

The older kids were not smitten with the Oceaneers club. Adam did not make any friends, and neither did Daniel. Stephanie did of course. They spent hardly any time at kids club, which was actually fine with us, as we got to hang out with them in the beautiful suite and around the well-monitored pool facilities. There are lifeguards on at all times which was cool.

Our only complaints

On the first night we dined at the only paid dining facility called Palo. The food was fantastic, the wine was divine, and our server Kat was lovely and professional.

My husband arrived in a dress shirt, vest and some jeans. He was turned away due to the dress code. This would have been fine, however the Maître Dee was rude. It was also incongruent, as my husband looked absolutely fine, and tidy. There was a table next to us where the woman was wearing a gingham print shirt and pants, and the dress code stated that women MUST wear a dress. (I know, what is this, 1953?). Kat was kind enough to find a pair of pants for Grumpy to wear. She even delivered them to him in our suite.

As my husband only eats fish, he ordered it for lunch and then dinner on our second day. He sent it back as he found it inedible. The fact is, they have to use frozen stock, and it ended up dry and unpalatable. The head chef came to apologise in person, and admirably made no attempt at excuses. He knew exactly what Grumpy wanted, and promised something special. That turned out to be a special order of sea bass defrosted slowly (in the fridge) and cooked perfectly. It was delicious. They also sent us a plate of garlic-seared shrimp. They went above and beyond to keep us happy and we were very appreciative. We also learned that Disney is the third largest buyer of food on the planet. This fact was overwhelming and proves again the magnitude of the Disney machine.

Although I am sitting here at 10:30pm the night before we disembark in Barcelona and I NEED to get off this ship, I can fairly safely say we will cruise again for the children. The room was perfect and the staff were all amazing, bar the rude Italian gentleman that made Grumpy feel uncomfortable.

New York City by Dee

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” Tom Wolfe

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This pretty much sums up my feelings about this iconic American city. The first time I landed in NYC I was engaged to the man of my dreams, and tagged along with him while he was there introducing the world to his iconic product Serato ScratchLive™ at a Remix Hotel held at the SAE (School of Audio Engineering) in Herald Square.

I have been married to that man for over a decade now, and we have brought all of our children here as infants, as the idea of herding young people through the streets there is not on any level appealing.

The first morning I arrived in the city, I walked out to towering skyscrapers and deafening noise like I had never heard before. And I was home.

New York moves at a frenetic pace that even an ADHD riddled brain like mine cannot fully grasp. There is an inescapable energy that buzzes arrogantly through every inch of this surreal city. You can smell it. Undeniably unpleasant, yet strangely exhilarating; the stench that wafts through the streets, subways and up through the manhole covers as you traipse through the endless experiences the c ity has to offer.

There is never enough time in New York. Perhaps why it has been christened the city that never sleeps. A day, or a week, or a month will still leave you painfully aware of all the sights, sounds, smells and moments that you missed. Even though you sacrifice sleep and tolerate aching feet to stay for just a few hours more zigzagging your way through Manhattan.

I Love this city. The way you might Love a disinterested or sadistic lover. The pollution is palpable, subsistence is expensive, and the city cares not whether I live or die. Nor does it mind what I do while I am wrapped up in the chaos of its rhythms.

So I carve out my own familiar path. There is a weeping willow tree by the turtle pond in Central Park that we return to for a nap and some calm. I always strike up several conversations on the subway. And Google always finds me a restaurant with food that makes me want to weep it is so delicious.

This last trip we flew a friend out to join us for a day in the city. She’s going through some major life changes, and was able to fly out to join us for a day of sight-seeing and unplanned chaos.

I won’t bang on about it, rather, I’ll share some pictures of Hobbit happenings while we were there.

Riding the subway… the kid next to Steve was very bookish and his mom was so nice, he kinda reminding us of our eldest Daniel
Riding the subway… the kid next to Steve was very bookish and his mom was so nice, he kinda reminding us of our eldest Daniel
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Breastfeeding on the corner of 35th and 6th
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Great stop if you want to hang out in Central Park
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James under our favourite New York city Willow Tree
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Just hanging out and chatting in Central Park
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Central park…
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James walking?
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Super baby and super dad
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Very few pictures of me, as I am CHUBBY… Lincoln, the quintessential Yankee :-)
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Allie :-)

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A lovely Japanese restaurant just off of Central park… they really enjoyed holding James.
A lovely Japanese restaurant just off of Central park… they really enjoyed holding James.

My Kiwi Identity or What I Love about NZ

At 7:00pm tonight, at the Bruce Mason Centre I will be sworn in as a New Zealand citizen.

I could have sent in the paperwork and done this at any point over the past 15 years or so as I have met the criteria for claiming Kiwi citizenship for quite a long time now.

My Canadian passport came up for renewal, and the children’s did around the same time, so I thought we may as well all have our passports renewed at the same time and I ought to just get my Kiwi one organised.

I would hazard a guess there are few people on the planet as frequently and genuinely grateful to be living in their surrogate country as I am to be here in New Zealand.

For those of you who don’t live here, or don’t know much about this Island Paradise, here’s a buzz feed of 69 facts about New Zealand you might find interesting.

I know that my country of choice is far from perfect, and the vast imperfections are highlighted as we lead up to the November election.  The most pressing concerns as far as myself and my family are concerned being our abhorrent domestic violence and poverty, and our energy and environmental policies.  There’s plenty more to discuss, but I’ll leave it there.

So on this, the first official day of what I hope will be a long and happy life as a Kiwi, I thought I’d share with you a quick list of things that make me think of New Zealand.

1) Rainforest, streams, birds, big trees, tramping, nothing that will kill you (no snakes or bears or vicious animals at all in our gentle little Island paradise), scenery, greenery and beautiful coastline. So… Nature.  We got it in spades down here.

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2) Punching above our weight.  We’re a nation of overachievers.  Sure lots of Kiwis head offshore for a time and seek fame or fortune abroad, but once New Zealand is in your heart, there’s a very good chance you’ll return.  We do very well at the Olympics.  We are currently the greatest Rugby nation on earth.  We share great business and academic minds with the world.  I feel that New Zealand and Canada share this mentality to punch above our weight, as we both have larger nations to compete with.  Kiwis have the Ozzies and Canadians have the ‘Mericans.  It gives us kind of a stroppy younger sibling mentality in some ways I think, and that means as a nation and as individuals we are often seen on the world stage.  Grumpy’s company Serato is a great example of this, and I am consistently baffled as to why, as a nation, we don’t celebrate our successful sons and daughters a bit more here at home.  Guess it is that whole humility thing and the tall poppy mentality.  Grumpy himself certainly doesn’t want to be “celebrated” and prefers to keep to himself.  I think that’s pretty cool, and typically Kiwi.

3) I’m not the only person who seems to like this temperate Island Nation.  There’s a certain type of chilled out rich and/or famous person who seems to be attracted to these shores.  We play host to lots of celebrities of note.  Some stay for a while and speak highly of our Island Nation (Stephen Fry, Ian McKellen, Tom Cruise, etc…) Others plant roots here and call NZ home.  Some of my favourite implanted people who now reside here include James Cameron, Shania Twain and/or Mutt Lange and there’s a long list of other people who have or continue to own property and frequent New Zealand as they too believe it is just about the most perfect place on the planet.

4) Food.  Oh my goodness, do we understand food.  Fresh produce, a year-round growing season for a vast and breathtaking array of fruits and vegetables.  Organic produce and meats and cheeses.  Beautiful wine, honey, and native herbs and spices.  We don’t ascribe to pre-packaged fast-food and empty calories mentality.  It has snuck in a little, and there’s plenty of KFC, McDonalds, Wendy’s and other fast food chains that help contribute to us being an embarrassingly fat nation, but in our defence, lovely fresh and healthy food is available here year round if you’re willing to go out and get it.  We have countless markets ranging from cheap and cheerful places where you pick up produce from the farmer himself, to high end French style markets boasting delicious but dear morsels.

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5) Diversity.  We have an amazing ethnic diversity.  We are the largest Polynesian island and boast the largest Polynesian population.  People from Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Cook Islands, Niue, and even the Melanesian island nations have enriched this country with their food, sporting prowess, arts, music and culture.  We also have a rich and vibrant Asian population and more and more people from around the world are bringing their gifts and talents to our shores.  Aside from ethnic diversity, we have an amazing biodiversity.  We have the only natural prehistoric forest left on earth.  Tramp into the Waitakere ranges, and you’ll be seeing plants exactly as they looked when dinosaurs ruled the earth.

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I could go on and on about New Zealand and how great it is, but I have kids to get to school and I’m sure you have things to do as well.

Wish me luck for tonight’s ceremony.

xxoo Dee

Last Minute Mayhem… I LOVE IT!

I travel.

Like the sun sets and the moon rises, I travel.

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I have since I was very young and my mother and her gypsy spirit lugged me and my older brother (who also travels) around Europe to countless castles, caves and churches throughout my childhood.

For those of you who don’t know, we’re off on a 6 week whirlwind tour of North America and Europe with the whole fam-damily.

A week on the West Coast with an old Bestie.  We’ll be touring around with the youngest Hobbit in tow. I suspect wine, food, and laughter will play a rather major part of our itineraries.  Other than that, we don’t have much of a plan.  I rented a car.  I’ll pack a bag. We have six days.  Should be fun!

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Then a week in Alberta.  The highlights of this will be a girl’s night out in the city I was born and then heading South to Calgary through the Rocky Mountains to visit family and friends.

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Then I jet to New Jersey to meet the man of my dreams, hubby Phteven (aka Grumpy) and we’ll head over to Manhattan for food, fun, romance and sightseeing.

Grumpy and I at the fountain outside the Lincoln Centre in Manhattan
Grumpy and I at the fountain outside the Lincoln Centre in Manhattan

From there we head North to the Ottawa Valley for three short days where we’ll see my Grandad and introduce him to his youngest great grandson and spend time with all the kids and my mom.

Our shadows at sunset in Black Bay near my grandfather's house in Quebec
Our shadows at sunset in Black Bay near my grandfather’s house in Quebec

 

Then Grumpy and I will farewell the three eldest children and leave them in the care of my mother as we head to London to visit the Queen… Well, not really… We’re going to see his brother. I also hope to see a couple of friends while we’re in and around London town for a couple of days.  So if you’re reading this and you’ll be in the area, drop me a line and we can catch up for a cuppa or a pint!  Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.  But we’re always back eventually!

Then we’re off to the continent for a whirlwind tour of Northern Europe to investigate some EV (Electric Vehicle) excitement, and maybe get a glimpse of our Tesla S before it heads off on the boat for New Zealand from the Netherlands.  We will see.

Then we will be reunited with the kids in Barcelona and off on a family cruise, just the six of us (myself, Grumpy and our four fabulous offspring) on Disney Magic for a week.

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On our tour we’ll hopefully be able to see the second and third of three super-moons for 2014. One in Alberta and one on our cruise.  We’ll also get a chance to see if we can remember how to negotiate the trials and stresses of tight travel schedules and maintain some semblance of marital bliss.

We haven’t traveled internationally since January, which is the longest stint we have ever been in New Zealand consecutively since we started dating back at the turn of the century.  2002 to be exact.

We’d had a few bad experiences with travel agents over the years, so I do all my own bookings these days. If I have an agent it needs to be someone I can visit and chat with.  There’s one gorgeous girl who I’ll be contacting to help us with our plans for a round the world trip with the kids in the next few years.  I do hope you’re reading and know it is you I am talking about Grace.  I keep meaning to pop in and chat and just never get around to it!

So today I have spent the entire day researching hotel rooms, flights, connections and the cheapest way to get from Belgium to Barcelona.  Looks like we’re going to be riding the train for that part of the journey.  Cheap and cheerful, and an adventure to boot!

I am so excited I find myself getting a bit tearful.  The Love of travel and the desire to traverse the globe is what keeps me going.

The promise of the next adventure is what makes it possible to do any of the important (but dull) day to day things that need to be done between adventures.  I really don’t know that I can slow or settle down as much as I tried to this year.  I’ve been a runner my whole life.  I ran away from home regularly from the age of about 4 or 5 and continue to crave the unknown more every year I am alive.

Grumpy does not enjoy travel.  Well, he very much enjoys being in new places and seeing or doing new things, he is just very adverse to the necessary evils of getting from point A to point B.  He hates airports. He hates cabs. He hates buses. He hates trains. He likes driving and doing his own thing and he LOVES to cruise because you unpack once and then it is food, fun and fabulousness from dawn till dusk until the day you disembark.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week.  Gearing up for another Hobbit adventure.  It feels so good to be stressing about the impending departure.  Familiar and fabulous.  I hope I remember to pack Uncle Traveling Matt this time!  I so often forget him.

So now, at well after 10pm on a sober Saturday night in the Hobbit household, I’ll sign off and continue my travel research.

XXOO

Thanks for reading!

 

Breastfeeding Blog

I’m always amazed at the response breastfeeding can conjure up in people. People on any part of the spectrum of preferring bottle or breast can get pretty militant.

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Here’s the thing:

People don’t have to agree with the way you chose to feed your baby for it to be absolutely fine. And it is not yours, nor is it my place to have or share opinions with or about mothers on the choices they make for themselves and their children (provided the children’s safety is not in danger).

I breastfeed. It fits in well with my hectic lifestyle. Good friends have even nicknamed me “daisy the dairy cow” in jest because I have enormous and productive boobs. I don’t find that offensive, I find it funny, but I wouldn’t suggest anyone take a crack at referring to a less than dear friend this way.

This is our newest baby asleep after a monster feed.  He's about two weeks old here and that pillow he's resting on his my massive boob.  Sorry if it makes you uncomfortable.  He certainly isn't uncomfortable, and neither am I!
This is our newest baby asleep after a monster feed. He’s about two weeks old here and that pillow he’s resting on his my massive boob. Sorry if it makes you uncomfortable. He certainly isn’t uncomfortable, and neither am I!

We know people all over the bottle or breast-feeding spectrum. The only things that makes me sad or upset are if women are made to feel any sort of shame or failure because of the choices they make/made when it comes to feeding their children from birth.

Some people we know breastfed or continue to feed well into toddler years. Does this affect me in any way? Nope. Are their kids healthy and happy? Yes. Am I an advocate for breastfeeding as long as you please or letting children self wean? Sure I am. Do I breastfeed my toddlers? Nope. Why not? Just cause I choose not to.  My choice, and even breastfeeding to 12 months or so gains me critics in the family and beyond.  Whatevs.

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As much as I feel obliged to defend women who extend breastfeeding, I also feel obligated to remind everyone to lay off women who bottle-feed.

I know women who are AMAZING mothers who either made a pre-emptive decision to bottle or mix feed. I also know women who attempted to breastfeed, and it was so difficult that they opted for the bottle rather than the pain, frustration, and complications they were subjected to. Some of these women felt like they had failed. Some of these women’s partners and friends made off-handed comments that augmented those fears and feelings. I find that a very tough pill to swallow indeed.

So how can I share a message that clearly delineates just how much I wish we could all just get along and encourage each other? It is great that people have opinions about breastfeeding. Advocates of attachment parenting and breastfeeding have done wonderful things for mothers in our society. But the other side of that is the ugliness of pushing one’s beliefs onto someone else unsolicited, and doing some serious damage.

Motherhood is hard. Really hard. I’m struggling with my post baby body, and my post partum emotions and most days I do not feel like it is a battle I am winning.

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So here’s the mantra I want to share:

Bottle or breast – being a kind and Loving mother is best.

No more complicated than that.

I’ll wrap this up with a couple of quick stories of mothering wins.

Last weekend I travelled down to Wellington for a much needed and overdue catch up with a friend who I admire in Wellington. It was her husband’s 50th birthday, and it gave me an opportunity to be alone with my son for three days and catch up with her alone for the first time in absolutely ages. It was nice.

In the lounge on the way home, I sat staring out the window while feeding my son with a blanket over us. This is how I chose to feed. Sometimes I don’t have a blanket, so I feed as discreetly as I can for my own modesty, not because I owe it to anyone else.

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While I was feeding, a lovely and gorgeous middle aged woman sitting next to me put down her wine, got my attention, looked me in the eye and said:

“Would you like me to get you something? Like a muffin or a drink or something?”

I was so chuffed with this kind gesture! Needeless to say, we spent the rest of the time before her flight chatting. When I was done feeding she watched the wee man for a spell while I went and got some sandwiches and a nice cup of tea. I have thought back on this seemingly insignificant meeting and felt so blessed to be living in a country where this kind of thing can happen.

There are still places, even in the Western world, where breastfeeding mother’s are made to feel ashamed or told to feed in the toilet! This is mind-boggling.

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The second story involves a lovely and stroppy mother I’ve met through her husband. I saw her posts and that she had been struggling with her son’s health and he had to have several operations as his insides grew on his outsides in utero. I went to visit them at the hospital to finally meet this lovely woman in person. She had a second brand new infant son and I was pregnant at the time.

The dad mentioned to his beautiful wife that their younger son looked hungry. I made the instant assumption she was going to pull out a boob. Nope. He got up, made a bottle and fed him and they both looked so happy and attached, and the mother and I carried on our conversation and got along brilliantly.

She told me briefly about her run-ins with a few breastfeeding advocates who tried to shame her about bottle feeding. She pointed out that bottle feeding was the best option because of the operations and being able to monitor her son’s intake. It also meant that the boys and their father were absolutely gorgeously attached in a way that is perhaps lacking a bit between my babies and their father. He bottle feeds them from expressed stores in our fridge or freezer if I choose to have more than one drink, but he doesn’t relish the experience the way this dad seemed to relish feeding his son. But neither one of our families is doing it right or wrong, we are just doing it our way.

I wish you all the strength and confidence to do it your way – bottle or breast. And for those of you who don’t have children, please encourage those around you to confidently do it their way as well. Breastfeeding is natural and bottle feeding is a very good option for some people.

And that is only just the tip of the iceberg regarding all I have to say about that… And I’m happy to do a part two or continue talking about this subject if enough people are interested in reading it.

Have a great day.

Thanks for taking the time to read!

XXOO

 

 

Children, chores and failed chocolate chip banana cake.

Today is the birthday of one of my most FAVOURITE humans in the whole word. We’ve been friends for nearly two decades now. I am currently fighting with a banana cake attempting to make it look like a heart…

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Not winning. We’ll be popping in to surprise her at her work later today.  We’ll deliver a cake (probably not this one though) and some cuddles. I am pretty confident writing about it, as she’s probably not going to read the blog during the day.

My beautiful friend delivering a speech as a bridesmaid at our Valentines day renewal.
My beautiful friend delivering a speech as a bridesmaid at our Valentines day renewal.
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Steph LOVES her Auntie P.
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Not a stitch of make-up and absolutely one of the most gorgeous creatures on earth. Here she’s helping get things organised. She’s good like that :-)

My darling daughter absolutely adores her Auntie P (birthday girl) and insisted she help make the cakes. She helped, and she made a magnificent mess in the process.

The children are always keen to help cook and bake, and anything they see as fun. But when it comes time to clean up, they make themselves suspiciously scarce.

They have been asking me for a chores list so they know what to do and when for months and months. I wrote one for Stephanie that she referred to and observed her duties with impressive discipline.

Both the older kids are obsessed with the concept of pocket money. A couple of budding capitalists? I doubt it, but I have no problem with putting in place a reward system. Here’s what ours looks like, feel free to steal it and tweak it for your own purposes if you’re a parent.

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We also have a fines list, similar to the pocket money chores list only it is negative amounts. You get the idea. I won’t publish that as the things the kids get fined for at this point could be embarrassing to them one day, and I am mindful of the Internet making it tough for you to forget after you’ve put something in the public forum.

So I’ll edit and post this short little sneak peak into Hobbit life for the week, jump in the shower, and head into town to surprise our perfect princess P.

I think I am just going to buy a cake…

Have a great day wherever you are and whatever you are up to!

XXOO

This is where I share opinions and observations about things that happen to the Happy Hobbit family.

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