Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Celebrating my Husband

Gideon and Lance with our adopted collie in Primrose Hill Park.  Lance is in a suit because he had a bishopric meeting that morning.  The call of duty apparently doesn't know about birthdays.  Sigh.

I've heard that one of the best motherhood strategies is to honour and love your husband.  Not a difficult thing for me to do (usually :-))!

So, when my husband got older last month, I celebrated his wonderful life the day of with afternoon tea in Mayfair and then scheduled a whole Saturday full of things that he loves - reading, dogs, motorcycle riding, and a chess match.

Finding a dog we could take around for a few hours was the most complicated part of the day - the English love rules, and insurance for handling animals is one of them.  Sheesh!  The dog walker didn't want/couldn't have help,  the local rescue society had their kennels too far away, and all of our friends had dogs too little to really interest Lance (and be safe for Gideon).  Finally, I was put in contact with All Dogs Matter, an agency where dogs are fostered until adopted.  After much doing, they allowed us to take a foster dog around in Primrose Hill Park for a bit--convenient because their was a dog charity event going on that same day in the park.  Leo was sweet but obviously abused by previous masters - sad.

Motorcycle riding ultimately didn't happen because all of the motorcycles that could have been test driven were sold before our Saturday adventure.  So Lance read and napped instead - another favourite activity.

Then some dear friends came over for dinner and a chess match.  Both the dad and the two oldest boys (little smarty-pants - one is attending the posh public school St. Paul's and the next is accepted) let Lance win, so it was all good fun.

I think the day was a success.  And the entire birthday present didn't cost a dime - another little gift for my economically-minded better half.  Love you, babe!

The Southern Golden Retriever "show team" in action (part of the PupAid event in Primrose Hill that day) - the owners were a little weird, but the dogs were beautiful and quite well trained. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

London Book Signing and House Warming Party

It's a flurry of activity around here finishing work projects before maternity leave sets in and preparing for a last pre-baby book signing here in London on the evening of 18 September.   (Five weeks plus two days to go - but who's counting?)

I was going to book the local library for the occasion, but then Lance and I realised that our home might be more comfortable than the library for the occasion.  We could join the event with a housewarming party, as we should--fingers crossed--be finished putting this place together.

Every day we make a little progress on our home - getting pictures framed and up, receiving delivery of our new piano (!), selling unwanted furniture, and visiting antique markets in far-flung areas of this little island so that we can make use of quality pieces at good prices.  The projects for today include finishing replacing the 70's piping on our new (old) couch/chaise lounge and then getting it professionally cleaned, getting buttons sewn on to the interior of Gideon's new play teepee so his toys can be organised inside the enclosure, and printing family pictures to put into the antique frames I just had matts made for.

I felt really lucky to find this chase lounge at Newark Antiques Market - in the middle of nowhere, England (sorry, not to offend any Newarkites!) - for £100 - about $160.  It dates to 1900, has nothing wrong with it other than needing new piping, and was re-upholstered in the '70s in a colour we actually like.  Usually with antiques, they need reupholstering, which is expensive.  It was a schlep up to Newark (4 hour roundtrip), but I possibly saved us £1,000 on a couch - they don't run cheap here!  
With new piping - tada!

Check out my chevron skills - not quite as cool as nunchuck skills, but still...

Other projects I hope to complete before the housewarming/book party include receiving delivery of our DC storage unit (along with my sewing machine!), painting the piano and bench and recovering the latter, making a cushion to run along the hearth, making curtains and bunting for the nursery, getting an island and possible hutch for the kitchen, and perhaps getting a comfortable seat for the living room.  We'll see what my pregnant body and schedule can tolerate.  Although I am ever careful to watch the pennies fly out the door, I enjoy a good challenge of saving money, finding beautiful things I want in my life forever filled with character.  I also admit to really enjoying the domestic side of all of this preparation - I haven't been this domestic since I was 13.  I also have a new-found respect for interior designers.  The options are overwhelming, and it took me ages to figure out a colour scheme for the living room.

This is the normal state of textile antiques - needing complete reupholstery.  If I could just find something like this recovered in cream or white or fuscia south of £200...

some things are SO tempting at these fairs - this is a miniature Rolls Royce from the 1910s with pedals underneath that actually propel the car.  It was more than our couch, however, so I couldn't quite justify it... 
We haven't decided whether we are getting a hutch yet, but here are the two winners so far - a low early 20th Century hutch that would need to be repainted and the doors re-hung for 55 pounds.

Or a shabby chic French hutch dating to the early 1800s.  £400, normally retailing £800.

And the two island winners - this one custom-made with reclaimed wood top for about £170, including delivery to London.

Or this from IKEA for £200 that has room for stools and matches our counter tops exactly - leaning towards this one.

I am excited for the book signing part of the shindig as well.  If it is anything like those previous in Provo and DC, it will prove to be a very spiritual night where we explore a little discussed topic - that of what it means to receive from others and how that process helps us to complete our concept and emulation of Christ's love.

If you are interested in attending the London signing, please email me at laupdike [at] gmail [dot] com, and I'll send you our address.

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.