Friday, July 27, 2012

The Olympic Torch

The Olympics are about to start here in the UK. Technically they are "in London," but actually there are a few events spaced throughout the country. Some events are happening fairly close to where we live but they are not sports of great interest to us so we did not go out of our way to obtain tickets. 

However, one of the really cool parts leading up to the Olympics here has been the torch relay that has been taking place throughout the UK. The torch was lit in Greece and then made its way to this island and has traveled to over 1,000 towns throughout the UK and has been carried by nearly 8,000 torch bearers. It has been on tour for the past 70 days. It has traveled within 10 miles of everyone in this country which is pretty remarkable. 

A few weeks ago the torch was coming straight through our little town - and not only through our town, but it was being carried down the street at the end of our block! It was a very neat afternoon and much to our surprise, it seemed the entire surrounding area descending upon our town to see the torch in person just as we did too. 
We did not expect the masses of crowds for the route through our town so by the time we made it to the end of our block, we unfortunately did not have great views because of the crowd. 

Crosby got a lift from Daddy and she had the best view out of the three of us....if only she were as interested in watching the torch relay as we were! 
There was a large procession that came before the torch bearer, starting with the police squad. 
Then there was a torch parade with fancy buses, music, dancers, and lots of Olympic paraphernalia. 
Major Olympic sponsors such as Coco-Cola took part in the torch parade. It was quite festive and lively as these big floats went past the crowds. 
Crosby's attention span was of course that of a toddlers - very short. She seemed more interested in walking around and looking at the crowd of people rather than the parade for the torch. 
Now can you see the flame? Look carefully - it's near the left side of this photo near the Union Jack flag. It was a brief moment and it was difficult to capture on camera due to the crowd, but it was cool to see it whiz by us in person....and now tonight we will watch the opening ceremonies (from the comfort of our living room via TV) with the rest of the world where the flame will arrive and light the start of the games. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

American jackpot!

I went to our local ASDA the other last night (the Walmart of England, literally owned by Walmart) and as I was sauntering through the aisles (because I was by myself after dinner, and didn't have a screaming child in a shopping trolley!), I came across this new display at the store. I stopped in my tracks. All of these American goodies in one spot, in England, in a local grocery store, and not cost prohibitive!!!
Hershey's Chocolate items - bars, kisses, cookies and cream bars, Reese's Peanut butter cups and more, Tootsie Rolls and real American Marshmallows! I do wonder how the store has chosen these specific candies and products to sell. 
I only wish they were selling real graham crackers, I would have stocked up so we could be enjoying s'mores this weekend....

Friday, July 20, 2012

Traveling with an up-and-coming toddler

To say traveling with a small child is challenging could be an understatement. I can see why once babies start moving around (i.e. crawling quickly, walking, etc.) parents stay close to home. 

I think we are in the midst of the really difficult travel stage right now. I thought it was challenging before to fly with Crosby over her first year, but actually it seems fairly easy in hindsight. (always the way right??). For goodness sake, Crosby took 20 flights in her first year of life! Although by no means were we pros at traveling with an infant, but it was manageable.

We decided to travel to Barcelona at the beginning of May over the first Bank Holiday weekend for a short break. Barcelona been on our "list" of places we have wanted to see within Europe and so we decided we would go this year. My sister Carrie came over from the US for a visit to see us in early May so we decided it would be fun for all of us to go together to Barcelona for a long weekend. Perhaps after Carrie's time with us in Barcelona she is rethinking ever vacationing with us again for now though! 

The pros to the travel for this trip were: The flight was fairly short and it was direct. Plus we flew out of our local airport (20 minutes away) rather than having to drive to London first. The con of flying now is that Crosby has no desire to stay still or seated for that matter. She was 14 1/2 months old for this trip. She wanted to see everyone and everything that was going on. And she has a short attention span like most up-and-coming toddlers, so watching a DVD or ipad was not of much interest for more than about 5 minutes at a time. Additionally, she does not nap well outside of her crib so there was no nap on this travel day. This combination of such toddler-isms created one very crabby and slightly unhappy travel companion for our flight! I have known it is difficult to entertain a small child as I am with her every day, but this flight brought new challenges in hopes of occupying her. 
Standing on Dad's lap was fun for a while, but we were trying to be mindful of those passengers seated in front of us, so we didn't let Crosby stay there very long. 
Once up in the air, I pulled out the ipad and we tried to take self portraits with silly faces. As you can see, Crosby did not find this very amusing....
We tried x-ray vision photos for something different.
And the halo effect which didn't seem to phase her.
Double time! Two Moms and Crosby in a strange form too.
Meanwhile across the aisle, Aunt Carrie caught up on some zz's since Crosby wouldn't stay on her lap for very long. 
On the flight home, more self portraits, this time Crosby playing peek-a-boo with my iphone cover. Anything to keep her occupied....because of course the myriad of toys I had stuffed in my carry on bag were of no interest to her...

So, once we survived the flight and arrived in Barcelona we were looking forward to exploring the city. We made some changes on this trip from how we had been traveling pre-child. First, we rented an apartment. Finding multi-bedroom hotel rooms or suites with separate sleeping areas is really quite costly and since hotel rooms within Europe tend to be small to begin with, an apartment is a nice option. My only [small] complaint about an apartment or flat is that they tend to be self-catering and I end up having to fix breakfast. When on vacation, I do enjoy a break from cooking for everyone but at this point, having space to relax after Crosby goes to sleep or when she takes a nap is more important, especially for short breaks. We ended up renting a fantastic apartment in a very nice area of Barcelona so that worked out quite well. We all had space to spread out and most importantly Crosby had her space to sleep so the three of us didn't have to tip-toe around her crib for the evening after she went to bed. 

The other change we made was we rather quickly abandoned public transport to and from the airport. Although we may have initially tried to take public transport, hauling our suitcases, a stroller, a tired child, and three adults did not gel with the train as the best way of transport. So, we opted for a taxi and after a bit of traffic, the nice driver dropped us right around the corner from our apartment. 

Having not taken a holiday with Crosby since our trip back to the US at Christmas time, we have not traveled with her since she has been onto full solid meals three times a day. There are pros and cons to both sides of the milk only vs. food spectrum when traveling with a child but it is nice to be able to just hand her an apple slice or a cracker instead of having to stop and feed her along the way as we did before when she was not eating solid foods. 
Interestingly enough, we would always ask the restaurant if it were ok to bring a child in with us and they always happily welcomed Crosby into the restaurant but only a few restaurants actually had high chairs available! 
Luckily we packed our small collapsible high chair to bring along with us on this trip and we used it at almost every restaurant along the trip. Another item I had packed and gladly used along the way was a stash of Ella's Kitchen vegetable packets. Since we were unsure about how many vegetables and fruits we might be able to find at every meal, I packed a supply of the packets for Crosby to eat daily and they were perfect. 

Another note about traveling with a small child in Spain. Timing was an issue. Many restaurants do not open until 8 or 9 pm for dinner and that is well past Crosby's bed time, let alone her dinner time! We could not wait that long each evening to feed her. So we went the tapas route most nights. We went to a tapas bar, had lots of small plates and then later on in the evening we had snacks if were still hungry, that we had purchased from the local grocery store and kept in our kitchen at the apartment. This type of dining was a noticeable change in how we used to do our vacations but it worked alright for this trip. 

And then there was the element of sightseeing within the city. First, getting around the city was a bit of a challenge. We had a small child in a stroller and Barcelona, although modern in some ways, is old. Europe is old for that matter. Public transport is not stroller friendly. Therefore, we climbed a lot of stairs where one adult would hold the baby, and the other adult would carry the stroller. Our arms were tired after doing this multiple times each day up and down stairwells. 
Scott was able to manage sometimes on his own...
 And then sometimes Aunt Carrie was there to help too...and I carried extra bags. 
 But then as any time wore on, Crosby would wiggle her way out of her stroller straps, basically proclaiming she no longer wanted to sit in the stroller. Scott would carry her around the streets of Barcelona over his shoulder! 
We wanted Crosby to stay in her stroller as we walked into the main area of Parc Guell and she wanted none of it! Actually, this type of outburst happened quite a few times over the weekend....she would start to get very upset and then in true tantrum style, would yank her hair bow out of her hair and throw it out of the pram. 
I would notice about 5 minutes too late that her hair bow was gone. Luckily while at Parc Guell I retraced my steps and found the bow along the dirt path! It felt like I was doing a lot of back tracking to ensure we had everything with us at all times.

So, the moral of this trip was quickly breaks with an up-and-coming toddler are not going to be our cup of tea for the moment. It's a tough lesson learned since Scott & I have enjoyed a LOT of traveling since moving abroad. We suspect a pool/beach/more relaxed type holiday will be our speed for a bit. The next trip on our books will be a week in France doing just as described - a week by the pool relaxing and perhaps some very small and quick market trips in nearby towns.  We want to be able to still take advantage of having Europe on our doorstep but we know our days of exploring as we used to are gone for the moment. Perhaps when Crosby is a bit older such city breaks will be more enjoyable for all involved, but for right now they are not fun for her and consequently they are not enjoyable for us either! Travel in general just seems tough with a young one at this age so we are hopeful that with a different speed of a holiday we will still be able to get away to someplace new, relax and enjoy time together as a family. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Where the lamb goes....

Crosby goes too....

Crosby received her beloved stuffed lamb when she was born from her grandparents in the US. In fact she received quite a few stuffed plush toys from America from various friends and family members when she was brand new, but for whatever reason the little white stuffed lamb became her security toy. She sleeps with it, she snuggles with it, she nuzzles it when she is upset, and generally it goes everywhere she goes because she feels safe with it.

Crosby & her lamb on a walk into town.
Crosby snuggling the lamb at Waitrose grocery store. 
Crosby and the lamb at afternoon tea.
Swinging at the park with the lamb in hand...
Even running around the yard with the lamb right next to her face! 

We had a small parenting failure (or miscommunication) last year when Crosby and I were traveling back to the US and the other parent (who shall remain unnamed....) did not realise the lamb was meant to go with us to the airport when he put Crosby and her belongings in the car. Regardless, the situation was able to be remedied because the lamb was born and sold in the US, so dear Gram was able to go buy another lamb before Crosby & I landed in the US and Crosby never knew the difference.

After that trip when we returned to the UK, we then had two lambs and we thought Crosby might be bothered by having two of her favourite lambs instead of just the one prized security toy, but she actually has loved having two. They have little rattles inside if them so she will sit and bang them both together to make noise, or she will carry them around - one in each hand- with great joy.

Ever since acquiring the second lamb, we have been careful to travel with both in case one gets lost (keeping one with us in a carry-on bag and one in Crosby's hands) but recently we have noticed, we have been both lambs out on errands more regularly because Crosby is asserting her very strong will and opinion about always having both in hand - and this situation is on I considered to be a small battle not worth fighting, so I have gone along with it.
Crosby looking upset because she thought Mom & Dad were leaving her at the house (but really we were just loading the car so we could all go run errands). Crosby had her two lambs in hand ready to go out on errands with us.

Well unfortunately now we are paying the price of having a favorite US-born security toy because somehow on the day when the photo above was taken, we lost a lamb along the way when running errands (at Sainsbury's grocery store I suspect). We left the house with two and somehow only had one by the evening when we had returned. Despite multiple phone calls to the store, no one has turned in Crosby's favorite little lamb. So, we are now watching her one prized lamb with all of our eyes to ensure we keep track of it before our next trip back to the US where we will purchasing another lamb from the store there! Perhaps we might even acquire a third lamb and keep one of them hidden for future good measure. It is really special that Crosby loves this little lamb so much but the trials of having a transatlantic security toy that cannot be purchased on this island where we reside makes us quite nervous at times, most especially when we have long stretches of travel ahead of us with her!