As I prepare to take my first solo travel adventure in a very long time I am realizing a few things.
Firstly that I’m terrified to be away from my sweet little love for so long. But I also know that this will be so good for both of us. She gets some time to be alone with daddy which will definitely be so good for both of them. And I will get to be, well, myself. I will get to focus on my training (yes it’s a work trip) and not have to constantly be worried about what she’s getting into.
I’ve also learnt that I don’t remember how to pack for just myself. Why is my suitcase so empty? Oh because I’m not packing clothes for 2 people. I’m not packing diapers, bedding, toys, books and everything else. I get to use MY pretty hand luggage bag and not the dirty old backpack because I only have to take stuff for myself. I will have a free hand to carry a cup of coffee because I’ll only be carrying my bag. Not 3 bags and a teddy. I don’t need snacks, water and everything else that’s needed to occupy a toddler on a flight. I am actually taking a book, because I may get to read!
So while I am so sad and dreading the moment I leave my house without my family, I’m so excited to fly by myself. To eat by myself and to worry about only myself.
But there’s lots to do before that moment! To get myself ready and to get my family ready. Make sure the fridge is stocked with all the favorites and make sure I get as many loves and cuddles as possible.
Recently a friend of mine and I decided that it would be a good idea to take a mini-vacation to Almaty Kazakhstan. The kids needed a change of scenery and we needed Starbucks.
Luckily our kids, (hers 6 and 12) and Mine (2) love each other and are best friends so they were all very excited about spending a few days together.
My first big realization on this trip was that Little Love is no longer a baby. And being 2, I now actually have to pay for a seat for her on the plane. I also have to figure out how to get her to stay in said seat with seatbelt fastened during take-off and landing. Cue ALL the snacks.
She actually managed the short trip really well and with the help of our trusted friend “hIPad” there were no major meltdowns. No mom-shaming please, limited screen-time is often my only saving grace, #toddlermom.
We arrived at the airport on the other side to find out that the hotel had only sent one car to pick up all 2 adults, 3 kids, 4 suitcases and a stroller. After some broken English / Russian conversations and translation plea phone calls to the hotel we found another car and a hair raising drive into the city ensued – at least there were lines on the road!
We were very pleasantly surprised by all the green. There was no dust. The sky was blue and I could breathe (I think I only blew my nose like 4 times the entire trip!)
Being a former Soviet country, the use of the Russian language is huge. The use of English, not so much. We definitely struggled to communicate. We felt a slight sense of animosity towards us “Americans” and a definite refusal to assist us unless I broke out my very limited Russian and at least tried to converse. We struggled with cabs because we could not communicate and as soon as they smelled the foreigner on us the price quadrupled. I would strongly suggest getting a local phone plan so that you can use Uber and Maps to find your way around without having to actually speak to people unless absolutely necessary.
I won’t give you a day-by-day breakdown but will highlight a few activities for reference and entertainment’s sake.
McDonald’s – The kids (yes all 5 of us) were very excited to see one a block away from our hotel. Lunch on the day 1 was the first of many visits. My favorite thing on the menu – ice cold Coke…with ice.
Zoe got to experience McDonald’s milkshakes. Unfortunately I think that there may be an allergy in there somewhere due to the fact that poop-splosions happened shortly after … every time …
We moms were even more excited to discover that a block away from McDonalds was in fact a Starbucks. Many visits were paid to this establishment too. My takes – Vanilla Latte, slightly different; Green Tea Lemonade – did not include Lemonade; Vanilla Chai Latte – Just what I needed!
After attempting to find the Zoo, we ended up at an Amusement Park (it had a petting zoo so I guess is kinda counts). Many meltdowns happened here. Most were because Little Love was too little to go on some most of the rides. Some because she did not get to ride in the Pink car, but had to go in the blue one instead.
When the moms couldn’t take it anymore we hiked through the city trying to find a cab, instead we found our trusted Starbucks, and with their free WiFi were able to get an Uber to the mall. Of course we ended up at the wrong mall… but it had A/C, and Pizza Hut. Little Love feel asleep in her pram and we were able to enjoy some quiet time browsing the stores and realizing that we couldn’t afford anything. Thank you international mark-ups.
Next, the part I was most excited about – Dinner at Ocean Basket. Who knew that I would find a favorite South African sea food chain in Almaty Kazakhstan? But we went (it was at the other mall…) and we ate a lot! Unfortunately they didn’t serve alcohol and they ran out of ice for the lemonade but they had a kid’s play area and we got to eat in relative peace.
We did in fact make it to the zoo on another day. Not much to say about it except that my 2 year old did not love the zoo as much as I hoped she would.
We took a trip up the mountain which was great. It warmed my heart that when I told Little Love that she was going on a cable car she immediately associated that with Table Mountain. Her favorite part was probably drinking ice cold mountain water out of her new cup that mummy had to buy.
Of course there were many more delicious meals consumed and a few more meltdowns and disagreements that I wont go into. But it was a great break and a much needed getaway. I’m lucky to have great friends that I can travel with and I’m lucky that those friends have great kids to keep mine occupied so I can relax a bit.
Little Love was 2 in April and I know that she is ready to be “trained” but I am struggling to fully commit to this and say goodbye to diapers forever. Part of it is that I feel that my baby isn’t a baby anymore and I’m in denial. And part of it is just well … It’s a big pain in the butt!
It all started with Little Love signaling to me that she had a wet diaper. She didn’t care that it was wet and she still fought when I tried to change her, but she was noticing that something was happening. So of course I jumped on Amazon, bought a potty and a couple of books and waited 2 weeks for them arrive (FS Life) so we could get started on this!
The books had me terrified and I think that this is where my problem started. I really believe that as with all things parenting and child related, you have to find out what works for your family and your child. Surprise! All children are different! We lead a pretty busy life. We both work full time and our weekends are often jam packed with activities and/or events/ so the whole three day potty training boot camp thing just seemed impossible. When would I be able to find three full days to stay at home and clean up pee puddles? And three days is if things are going well!
I know, I know, I should put my schedule aside and focus on her needs etc etc but there’s enough mom guilt happening here so no need to point that out.
I decided that we would use some of the advice and ditch the rest and eventually we would find something that worked.
We started with random nakey time around the house. After bath and in the mornings and pretty much whenever we were at home.
I looked for the signs that pee-pee was coming and tried to get her to the potty in time. Of course there were lots of accidents and lots of “Mummy I Peed!” and pointing to the floor. But eventually she started to realize what the signs were and “Mummy I peed!” turned into “Pee coming!!” We celebrated every trip to the potty and rewarded (also read as bribed) the successes. Once we were seeing more successes than failure’s and consistent potty use during nakey-time we progressed onto phase 2: Commando or Big girl panties! And that’s where the road block happened. I don’t know if she associated panties with diapers and didn’t see the difference, but she just would not pee on the potty when she was wearing panties / shorts / pants / anything other than a bare naked booty.
There is a huge possibility that we are confusing her by being naked sometimes and wearing diapers at others but that is just the reality of our life. We kept at it. I started putting just t-shirts and dresses on so that she would still be “dressed” but she could get used to the thought of using the potty with clothes on. Thanks Mom for this suggestion. She got it. She started peeing in the potty with “clothes on”. We then progressed to loose shorts. She got that too. We put on tighter pants and she didn’t get that…
So this is where we are now. 100% potty trained, depending what she’s wearing…
My next step, when I get the guts, is to just ditch the diapers. Deal with accidents and apologize to those whose floors we pee on over the weekends…
These last couple of weeks have opened my eyes and twisted my heart strings in so many ways.
I’m sorry for getting deep here – prepare for tears…
It started when a family that I know only through an online support community lost their sweet little boy after a very long and brave fight with cancer. Even though I personally did not know their Little Love, his passing affected me in a way that I couldn’t explain. I wished that there was something that I or anyone could do to ease their pain and turn back time. I marveled at their strength during this time of immense grief and how much love this wonderful and happy child had around him through his short life and how even his very young siblings cherished every moment with him.
Then as if the universe knew that we needed a positivity boost, on Wednesday when the Husband, Little Love and I went to Chipotle for dinner (I know… Romantic), we went to pay we were told that the lady in front of us in line had paid for our meal and had said to, “Have a Wonderful Day”. This small gesture by a stranger brought tears to my eyes and I wish that I could personally thank that wonderful woman.
Lastly, on Thursday I spent a couple of hours at Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital with some of the team from work and Jess Ekstrom of Headbands of Hope. We met some wonderful children and parents while handing out headbands that were made by UA teammates. Seeing the strength of these children was something special. Faced with some huge challenges ahead, they are all smiles and muster up the most amazing energy to have conversations with us grown-ups who just stop by for a few minutes in their very long days. It’s not something that most people would consider major but it is heartwarming to see that even something as small as a headband can bring so much joy to a child and in turn to their family.
I look at these children and these families and then I come home and give my Little Love the biggest hug. I am so blessed to have a happy, healthy baby but in the back of my head I live in constant terror that one day the strength of myself and my family may be tested as we face our own scary situation. I know that many parents suffer from the nagging thoughts of impending doom. It’s why we sneak into our baby’s rooms in the middle of the night and listen for those glorious breaths and grunts or lie awake at night staring at the baby monitor watching every little twitch. It’s why we triple check the car seat, baby proof our houses like prison guards and clean, wipe and sterilize everything to the point of no return.
I know that parents are crazy… ok fine… I know that I’m crazy… but as much as I try to control the world, I know that there are many challenges coming our way and as much as I would like to keep Little Love tucked away in a sterile and perfectly safe bubble I know that the big wide world is a terrifying but exciting place that she will love to explore. And I can’t wait to watch her grow and dominate at this thing called life.
** Headbands of Hope – www.headbandsofhope.com – For every headband sold, one is donated to a child with cancer. To date, Headbands of Hope has donated to every hospital in the US.