Stuck in a Cold, Intermittently Snowy Rut

I know, I know. I restarted my blog with a single post in December, then vanished off the face of the earth.

We travelled to England for our every-other-year (what do we call that? Is it biannual? Biennial? Answers on a postcard/in the comments pretty please) Christmas holiday, and I decided to leave my blog until we returned – hopefully, with a lovely, full list of things to blog about.

Well, things never seem to go how you want them to, do they. Oh, sure, I’ve got a fantastical long list of blog subjects (which I will post in the upcoming weeks, I assure you), but I haven’t been able to sit on my sofa and talk about them, just yet. Why, you may ask?

Well, because we’re still stuck here. Without going into too much detail, we’re playing a waiting game with South African home affairs, and we can’t go home just yet. We don’t even know when we will be able to – nobody can tell us.

My mother in law (retired primary school teacher) is homeschooling Stevie. We are trying to keep them outside, playing, for the rest of the day, but it’s very difficult. They constantly want to return home, as do we. We miss our dogs! Stevie asks at least once a day, when she can go to big school (she’s supposed to have started Crawford 3 weeks ago).

This is not a post to moan or complain – just an information post, for those who may have assumed I’d vanished. We’re still here; we’re still just about hanging on. Our sanity is just about still intact. But, my word, I have never known homesickness like this!

Back to Work!

I never intended on going straight back to work after I had Elia. To be honest, I was still reeling from the 26+kg I put on with Stevie, resulting in a further 9 months of maternity leave after she was born, that I was assuming, due to being healthier this time, I could go back to work when Elia is 6 months or so.

But here’s the thing – I’ve lost my weight already. I’m back in my 26in jeans, and, much as I’m not in my favourite, model ‘shape,’ I’m not looking too bad. And with that, comes work.

So, this weekend, leaving behind a hard-worked for 3 litres (yes, really) of breastmilk in the freezer, I boarded a flight to Cape Town, to work with the lovely James Harvest crew. 3 days of work, 3 nights from my babies. Never had I dreamt I’d be doing this again with a 3-and-a-half-month-old baby.

And it was fine. My mum sent me a message on the Sunday, after spending part of the weekend with Pete and the girls, to tell me how proud she is of him for being such a good parent (well, duh, Mama) and how proud she is of me for going away. That was lovely, and so reassuring. Of course, I really missed the girls and Pete. Mostly in the nights, when I’d wake up to express milk, and have to go back to sleep in a cold, empty bed. And, much as I love FaceTime, when Stevie fell and hurt herself mid-conversation, it pained my heart to know I couldn’t be there to comfort her.

But we all came through it. I was very, very spoiled with my first trip back. Not a high shot count, amazing locations and food, well-organised and nice people: I felt like I was working 10 years ago! Such a lovely shoot to slowly get back into the swing of things.

I can honestly say, I’m still pushing for July to be when I make my first, official foray back into work. But if jobs like this come up in between now and then, I definitely won’t be turning them down. It’s a nice way to dip my feet back in the working waters. Pus, I got to eat a hot breakfast with both hands, which is always a bonus!

PS – the nicest part of the whole thing, of course, was coming home. Those two little faces lit up when they realised Mummy was back, and Stevie’s been telling every person she sees today. It’s worth going away just for that!

Baby Things – Good or a Waste?

So recently my friend Billie Brown, of Young London Mum, asked me for my list of what’s good, and what’s not-so-good, to buy for baby. I thought I’d post my recommendations here – and add a couple more, of course!

1. Top 5 Buys

– a stretchy baby wrap. I now have two that I interchange. I started with a Jojo Maman Bebe wrap with Stevie, and now with Elia I primarily use a Mona Lisa Mamas wrap (a homegrown South African company). You can also make your own using t-shirt fabric!

– a baby bath seat. We bought one for Stevie originally in the UK, and we bought another one for her when we loved to SA. We now also use it for Elia- babies are slippery to hold in the bath, and much as it sounds lovely to bathe with them all the time, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way.

– a good bouncer/rocker. Brand really doesn’t matter (although we love our Tiny Love rocker), just find one you like and it’ll prove invaluable – so handy for when you need that 5 mins just to have a quick shower or make a cup of tea.

-a great quality, long-wearing travel system. We have the iCandy Peach, which we bought before Stevie was born. We did a LOT of research into different brands, and we liked the giant wheels and the slightly higher vantage point of the seat. Besides missing a bar (I think it’s still in my cousin’s car) it’s lasted us well for 3 years! It fits either a Maxi Cosi or BeSafe car seat, then has the pram attachment and the buggy. Stevie still uses the buggy bit, and Elia has taken over using the car seat and pram. Special shout out to the BeSafe car seat, which has also lasted 3 years!

Mimijumi bottles. Essential for a breastfeeding mum with a boob monster! The shape mimics that of a breast and baby needs to suck to get out milk, thus making it the closest bottle to a boob. Weirdly, it even looks like a slightly odd nipple! Every other bottle was useless for us – Stevie refused anything but the real thing until this bottle came along. It’s pricey, but totally worth it.

– a baby nest. We stupidly left our Sleepyhead sleep pod in storage in the UK, but we found a new one! A must for any mum, it can create a safe co-sleeping space (nice, firm walls) or a safe space where they still feel cocooned inside their cot.

2. Useless things

– Tommee Tippee breast pump. Sorry to the makers of this breastpump, but if I’d have known how long I’d be feeding for (nearly 3 years now) and how much expressing would have to happen per trip (hi, model who looks like a dairy cow in designer clobber) I’d have gone straight for the big guns in the form of the Medela Swing and saved myself a load of hassle. Frugal doesn’t always mean sensible!

The joys of pumping and travelling – this is on a 16-hour direct flight on the way back from Mexico

– Moses basket. Thankfully we didn’t invest in one, but we know lots of people who did and who weren’t happy. It’s cumbersome to move with one hand (whilst holding baby) and just gets in the way – and baby grows out of it so quickly, it just seems a waste of space.

– breastfeeding pillows. I used one with Stevie, but I haven’t needed one at all with Elia – I’ve realised far too late that any cushion will do the same job!

– dresses for girls and fussy clothes for boys, in the 0-6 month size category. Super cute but totally uncomfortable and impractical! Our girls have been stuck in them for photos, but for everyday wear, stick to a cute baby grow or trouser/top combo.

– expensive baby clothes. Okay, so this one is kind of a given – but it’s still true. Babies wear their clothes for maximum 3-4 months, and I guarantee that they’ll poo/puke in the most expensive item you own. My MIL bought a beautiful Petit Bateau baby grow for Stevie, white velvet with a Peter Pan collar. So pretty, but the Cursed Onesie. If we ever needed her to have a poonami, we’d pop her in that. Rather stick to Asda/Tesco or Morrisons clothes in the beginning – they wash nicely and you won’t get upset if your child explodes in them!

We’re Home!

So, after an amazing (but long and busy) two-and-half weeks in the States, we are finally home!

But the fun doesn’t stop here – this weekend is my sister’s bachelorette (and the fiancé’s bachelor) and next week our extended family descend from the U.K. for their wedding next weekend. I’m tired even thinking about it!

But first of all, I’m going to concentrate on our holiday. For those who don’t already know, there were two main purposes to our mega trek – one of our best friends got married in Ann Arbor, and Pete was one of his best men. The other reason was that Pete turned 30! I know, my hubby has reached the mega-grown-up-milestone.

Ann Arbor has regularly been voted as one of the best places to live in the US, and it’s pretty obvious why. It’s a university town, and downtown is full of cute little boutiques and cafes, while the houses are clapboard behind picket fences and the typical giant Michigan trees.

Without going into too much detail about the wedding (which would take an entire blog post itself), I’ll just say it was beautiful. The location is called the Gladwin Center, but they unfortunately don’t have a website – only a number on Google. We had a lovely day – Stevie and I got ready with the bridal party whilst Pete and the groom’s party (is that a phrase?) had beers and cigars. It was record high temperatures, so we enjoyed a hot, sticky, fun wedding until Stevie actually fell asleep in my arms, on the dance floor, to the dulcet sounds of Jay Z. No joke.

Fast forward to the day after the day after the wedding, and we all flew down to Orlando, FL – bride and groom included! I’ve already told everyone all about our trip to the beach, but did you also know that we went to Disney World? I’ll cover it in a post partnered with this one. And that it was Stevie’s first time? And that I cried like a baby when she saw Minnie Mouse? We also visited Universal’s new water park, which I’ll get on to in another separate post! You’ll have to read the next one, if only just to see the cute pics on the teacups…

D-Day is Almost Here…

For those of you who don’t know, tomorrow, Thursday, in the evening, just over 24 hours away, we will be boarding one of the world’s longest direct flights. I’m 6 months pregnant. We have a 2 year old. And we will be flying Economy.

Now you’ve caught your breath on just how stupendously daft this idea is, let me make it even worse.

Upon arrival in Atlanta, we have an 8 hour layover. We have to collect our bags, as we’re on a different airline, and then sit for 8 WHOLE HOURS in the airport. Then we board another plane (2 hours this time) to Detroit. Then, finally, we have arrived.

Now, contrary to popular belief (and the above photo) we have done long flights, in economy, with Stevie. She’s very much the seasoned traveller. She sleeps well on planes, she’s very used to the noises and the goings on, and the normal 11-hour flights we do are a doddle. But this one is seventeen – yes, seventeen – hours in one go.

I don’t want to give her any drugs or herbal remedies to make her sleep longer, as sleep isn’t the problem. It’s the 5 hours or so of awake time that we’re going to struggle with. There are only so many movies she can watch on a little, tiny screen, and only so many trips to the loo we can take, before she starts to go stir crazy. I’ve done this flight a few times before, and, hell, even I go stir crazy.

So we’re going to stock up on stickers, prepare her favourite books, and load up on bolting, popcorn, cheese and any other snacks we know will keep her even slightly occupied. I can’t promise the same for us!

Wish us luck!