Monday, September 1, 2014

Managing Fits

Looks so cute, no?  Would never anticipate that he can cry and fall on the floor over nothing with the best of them.
Thanks to Lesley Colvin of KensingtonBlue for these amazing, unexpected pics!
So our near-perfect little boy has learned how to through a fit.  And he's *really* good at it - in fact, he's gotten better, if that's the right phraseology.

It's taken me by surprise, and I'm at a little bit of a loss as to what to do.  It seems so out of character for his easy-going, happy personality, but there you have it.  When he doesn't get his way, he is a bit "precious" as they say here.

I need help - thoughts?  What is the best strategy?  I have either taken the tack of ignoring it completely, putting him in 30 second time outs if it is really bad (to which he often giggles - less effective), or laughing at him and making fun of him, which is surprisingly effective to get him to laugh at the situation, but perhaps I don't want him to get any attention at all?

Help, please?

Like his dad and grandpa Toler, G gets attached to objects - cars and, recently, his tiger.  He can now say both! 
This is what happens, apparently, when you ask a professional photographer to watch your son for a weekend.
Lesley, I don't know how you do it!

"The twins" as they were called while we were in Madrid.
This is the laughing that occurs post-fit.  Sometimes we get so mad, I rend my clothes!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

10 Tips for Seamless Baby Travel

It was all I could do to keep Gideon from hurling himself into the Potomac.  My boy loves water!

For those mums anticipating one more end-of-summer trip, traveling with a baby is tough any way you cut it.

After four cross-Atlantic trips in one year - not to mention several trips within the UK - I've learned a few tips and tricks that make life with a little one on the road easier.  Here are my recommendations for near pain-less travel:

1) Travel with a bed they are used to.  I have always traveled with Gideon's bed, whether that be his trug, sleepyhead, hammock, and, now, his baby tent.  The tent has by far been the most versatile - I used it on the train (setting up "camp" in the handicapped area), by the pool, on the beach, wherever I was sleeping, on a balcony, or, when I couldn't quite make it to pick the babysitter up in time to make my breakfast meeting at DC's Union Station, there in the train station (yes, it was called in by security - who else uses tents in train stations? - but then they realised there was just a baby inside).  Gideon didn't miss a nap or a good night's sleep during last month's trip to the States--in large part because he slept in his own bed.

On the train - when he was done sleeping, I took the shade cover off, opened up the top window, threw some toys in, and it became a play pen.
On the balcony of our Avilla Beach hotel room. 
At Union station

I realize not everyone wants to be as a-traditional in their sleeping choices - ours have largely been determined by space (the tent was a wonderful accident - I got it as a temporary measure till we could decide on a real crib/cot, then we realised we didn't need an expensive piece of temporary furniture, as G loves his tent for all occasions).  My amazing sister solved this challenge by sleeping her babies once a day in their pac-n-play/travel cot so that they could take the bed with them when they traveled.    Brilliant.

2)  Respect the nap.  It can make for some creative flight paths, but I always try my best to respect nap times at regularly scheduled intervals.  On this last trip to the States--involving 10 flights in 29 days--I made sure I was on a plane where I could hold him to sleep or on the ground where I could set up his tent for the entire nap time.   No one likes a crabby baby, especially me.

3) Travel with a high chair.  I can hear the eye rolling, but this little chair harness for £10 ($15) makes eating almost anywhere possible.  I love it, and it is a frequent passenger in my baby bag.

 4) Travel with a smock.  This beauty form IKEA is about £2 ($3) and saves so much more in unstained clothes.

5) Travel with baby food pouches.  Need I say more?

6) Travel with a hat - both for you and the baby.  Especially during the summer.  We are so white we are translucent (and I have vitiligo, or Michael Jackson's disease), so it is more necessary for us than other families, but hats are much easier than sunscreen.

Punting at Oxford with Lael and Eleesha.

6) Don't travel with fungible items.  Although I always made sure I had enough diapers, wipes, and food to get us to the next pit stop, I don't have much more.  These things are bulky and replaceable.  That is, so long as you are not traveling in the third world.  Then stock up.

7) Keep it simple.  I took too much on this last trip.  I violated my normal rule of traveling in one carry-on for both of us, and regretted it daily.  If you keep their outfits and yours simple and interchangeable (start with the shoes) and the toys to a minimum, this is possible.

8) Go cold turkey.  Whenever I cross one or more timezones, with perhaps one extra nap in a day if headed west, I put Gideon on his schedule in the new timezone immediately.  The transition invariably takes longer than if I attempt a more gradual schedule.  Now Gideon is somehow used to this it seems.  This last trip was his fourth time across the Atlantic, and the worst he did in a night was 7:00 p.m. - 5:00 a.m.  Not bad.  Coming back was a bit rougher, but it still only took a week to get him back to his normal routine - often my friends' children have taken 2-3 weeks to transition back.  

9) Let them play.  I normally do something just for Gideon every day in the mornings, and tried to keep that up as much as I could this last trip.  Whether that meant chasing him around the terminal or up and down the aisles of the plane, dipping into the Potomac (pictured above), getting down and dirty in the rocks (below), or stopping by the closest swing set (below), this meant for a much happier baby and, therefore, mamma.

10) Pray. It might sound a little silly, but I find that when I pray that the next flight, train or car ride will go smoothly, that Gideon will nap, that I will make my connection, and find helping hands along the way, everything works and baby travel seems almost easy.  This last trip, the worst leg of the entire 29 days was the only one about which I didn't pray, and it was horrific.  Taught me a lesson.  These things may not be important to God, but they become important to HIm because they are important to you and your sanity--and He loves to remind us that He loves us by answering our simple but earnest baby-travel prayers.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Provo Book Signing and Discussion

Many thanks to Janice Heilner for taking these pictures!  Here I am
seated with my wonderful mom, who introduced me. 
During my crazy trip to the States, besides seeing family, the major highlights for me were the two book signings - in Washington, DC and this one in my hometown of Provo, UT.

The Provo event included a few new friends (was so fun to Juana Terry, the Woodburies and my Toler in-laws!), but mostly it included friends and family who have known me since childhood.  Many had lived through the experiences I talk about in my book--ruining my knee in a freak push-scooter accident at nine, for instance, or the deaths of two of my siblings many of them knew and loved.  My experiences were theirs, and it gave added depth to our conversations.

What made the evening quite profound was that while most of the people in the room had known each other for decades, and many of them had suffered from our family tragedies, experiences with receiving (or not) were shared that none in the room had ever heard before.  For some, there was a poignant shift in their conceptualisation of themselves as "givers" to "receivers."

We talked about the effect receiving has on relationships in blessing both lives, and whether those with true charity are just as good at giving as receiving (what do you think?).  We spoke of sacred experiences wherein one took the opportunity through severe mental health challenges to receive of the love of the Savior in a new and sanctifying way.

One of the sublimest doctrinal contributions made that evening was that God is hungry for our love, and needs to receive it.  I had never thought about God ever needing anything, but of course a parent needs to feel love from their children.

In all, it was a wonderful, Spirit-filled evening, and made me wonder if one reason why the evening was so special is that we experienced the true "gospel"--abject need for the Savior's atonement and for the sacred roles we each play in effecting his sacrifice.  Despite how difficult it was to open myself up in my book, if more people are able to have similar experiences and conversations, it will all have been worth it.

Preparing the fruit for that evening's refreshments.

Juana Terry, Sandra Whitaker, and Alf Pratte.
Many thanks to Sandra for opening her home and heart that evening for this event.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Keeping Distant Family Close

Up, Up with Updikes! I helped to plan our biannual extended Updike reunion.  30 of 45 cousins were there - pretty good. Uncle Jim (my dad's cousin) hosted us all up around Lake Valencia, Colorado near where my great grandpa Updike summered. 

Cousins. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents.  In my life, these were important titles and people.  I grew up with a reunion each year--for both sides of the family.

In my superbig Mormon family, this was no small thing, as there are 45 grandchildren on one side, and 52(?) on the other side, with fifteen sets of aunts and uncles.  I know and love them all.  

They have played important roles in my life spiritually.  I began reading the Book of Mormon at age seven in response to a challenge from my uncle.  My Aunt Nancy taught me to thrift shop (a favourite, handy hobby). On my mission for my Church in Sydney, Australia, when faced with a tough challenge of faith or disobedient missionary leadership (it happens, unfortunately), I would often imagine what my cousins David, Jordan, Ben, Russell or Lisle would have done in a similar situation.  Now I am inspired by strong marriages despite difficult challenges or the mothers among my cousins who seemingly effortlessly teach tiny children to be reverent in Sacrament meeting.

I want Gideon and this unborn baby girl to have the same experience - very much.  Besides, it's just fun to have life-long friends and mentors who never go away.

Living in England when everyone else is in the United States and an ocean and painful hours of jet lag away makes that tough.  But this summer was the first that we were able to swing reunions for both sides.  Perhaps next year, we can have them all in one place so it's not quite so difficult to cross an ocean and a continent to see everyone.  Maybe just an ocean?

Truman might be in the favourite cousin running.  Always entertaining.

Gideon getting to know his great-grandpa.

Four generations.  Grandma Toler passed away the week before we were already scheduled to come out, and Lance (aka Bishop Toler) was able to conduct the funeral.

Bishop Toler gave a fine talk and conducted a wonderful, moving service in tribute to his grandma.

Hiking at Mesa Verde on the first full day of the extended Updike reunion.

Gideon was a total trooper.

I don't know who was more scared to go through this tunnel out of Balcony House - me at six months pregnant or Gideon.

Cliff Palace - always wanted to see this in person.

Silverton, Colorado where we spent a day of the extended Updike reunion.

Hay ride courtesy of Uncle Jim.

Let the games begin!  Rook, chess, Cover your Assets, Settlers of Catan--but especially Rook--are great Updike past times.

Scenes from our car trip between one reunion and the other.  For those who have never seen red rock, it is breathtaking.
After a long day of travel, including six hours across the dessert between Durango, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, and a two-legged flight to Fresno, Gideon was still excited to see Grandpa--and his dog.
After another car ride from Fresno to the beach, Gideon was excited to spend time with Levi - another in the favourite cousin running.
Mom and Dad Toler took us all sailing the first full day of the Toler reunion.  Amazing.  Lance even saw a whale!

Gideon seems to enjoy sailing as much as his mamma.

The first of many sea lions.  First time I had seen them in their natural habitat.

The original five Toler siblings.
That night we ate at a farmer's market at Avilla Beach and danced to the street performers.

When close to Mexico, eat Mexican food!  We miss it here in the UK.

Wish I could have videoed his dancing.

Lance loves his sisters.  I needed their approval before Lance could propose.

Family pictures on the beach.

One of the professional shots by Stephanie Ryan Photography - more to come!

Perhaps the professional version will be our Christmas pic?
These two cousins - of Lance's adopted Korean sisters - are besties.  So cute!

digging in the sand with Grandpa.
What to do when you soil yourself so badly that you need to be stripped and mamma forgot extra clothes? Borrow your cousin's jacket and rock it.  Everyone always thinks I'm a girl, anyway!

finding sand crabs

Crossing the ocean inlet to get to the tide pools.  Good thing I was wearing my Sunday dress that could be easily hiked.

Gideon loved the tide pools. 

Tammy has perma favourite aunt status on the Toler side. 

Aunt Jacquie has made many of Gideon's blankets, burp clothes, and a beautiful quilt.  After using them his entire little life, it was great to see Gideon actually interact with this wonderful Aunt.

Avilla Beach was a wonderful choice for a reunion - cooler than many other beaches, not overly crowded, and peaceful.
So fun to watch Gideon interacting with cousins he won't see till next year. 

Stopping by a petting zoo on the way back to Fresno.
The last leg of the journey--the seven hour cross-Atlantic flight, and the last of 10 flights, was the most difficult.  Thank goodness Lance was there to make it easier.