28 April 2008

More than just surviving in sunny Somerset

Our first few days in England have been a bit of a mixed bag. We suffered quite heavily from jetlag particular with Noah being up in the night the first few nights and then finding it quite difficult to get back to sleep. On top of that, Mark came down with a sick bug and spent a whole day in bed which mirrored what happened to him last time we came over - very strange. However, now that we seem to be through all that and all sleeping a lot better we've been able to really start to enjoy our time here.

We've been blessed with glorious sunshine and some lovely warm days, the warmest they've had all spring, and we've been able to fully enjoy Grandma's garden, walks around the village to see various wildlife and play in the park. Yesterday we even visited a farmers market at Montacute House where we sampled delicious locally made fresh fare (ale, cheese, sausages, bacon, chocolate, and icecream).

This weekend has seen the extended UK family get together for the first time ever, us three, Grandma, Grandad, and James, Ann-Marie and Jack so it has been a rather special family time. Jack and Noah have so enjoyed spending time together and played so happily together, it really has been a delight for us adults to see. Jack was so gentle and kind with Noah and really looked out for him the whole weekend, including wanting to push him in the stroller when we went out for a walk.

Us adults enjoyed a wonderful meal out at one of Mum and Dad's favourite haunts, The Masons Arms in Lower Odcombe together on Saturday night, an opportunity for a grown-up catch up that is extra special when it only happens once every two years. The highlights for us over the last few days have been seeing Noah so enjoying spending time with the family, he especially loved playing at the park with his Aunty Ann-Marie 'Ann-Ree' yesterday and having a bath with Jack on Friday night.

24 April 2008

'I want Mickey Mouse'

When we arrived at our hotel in LA, Noah had his first taste of the whole Disney experience, as he was fascinated by a large statue of Mickey Mouse in reception. It was TOO cute when he woke up the first morning in the hotel and his first words uttered were ‘I want Mickey Mouse’. Well as we were planning a trip to Disneyland for the day, it was a request we could definitely comply with! We had enjoyed a walk around Downtown Disney the night before amongst all the hype and lights, and felt that we couldn’t miss the opportunity to experience Disneyland in all its splendour even if just for the day.

We are amazed by a Lego R2D2 and a bunch of yabbering monkeys on our jungle cruise

Vibrant colours on the Winnie the Pooh ride

It was a long day but a good day, Noah got to experience several rides, most of which scared him silly at the time but when we asked him after each one if he had enjoyed it, the answer was ‘yeah’. We went on the Jungle Cruise (twice), a Winnie the Pooh dream ride, the Pirates of the Caribbean (probably our favourite), Mr Toad’s Wild Ride through London, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Mummy/Daddy only!), Finding Nemo Submarine Adventure, Buzz LightYear’s AstroBlasters, and the gentler Railroad ride. We also got to watch a parade down main street which is all part of the Disneyland experience.

Noah plucks up courage to touch his first ever goat

We go underwater in search of Nemo

Noah was most fascinated by seeing Mickey Mouse everywhere he went, all the paraphernalia meant sighting Mickey was a pretty regular occurence, and so the cry of the day was ‘another Mickey Mouse!’ When it came to meeting him in person however, he was a lot less sure…and got quite upset…funny boy.

The obligatory pose with Mickey....Noah is not too sure!

The Parade of Dreams...cheesy but oh so Disney!

We coined a new synonym for all the amusing things we saw whilst in America – short for ‘Only in America’. Mark, who had never set foot in the States before (I had been to Hawaii 9 years ago), felt that it really lived up to all his expectations of everything being completely larger than life. From the size of the cars, the brashness of the people whose favourite phrases seemed to be 'uh huh' and 'back up', the food and portion sizes, it just didn’t disappoint. I think he felt he was living in the movies for the two days we were there. We ate at the Red Robin Burger joint for lunch when we arrived and were amazed to see the bottomless Coke and Steak Fries just kept on coming. The last night we ate at Joe’s Crab Shack and seeing the waiting staff stop mid-service to do a rehearsed dance to ‘Wild Wild West’ was just classic.

The dining experience at Joe's Crab Shack

However much fun we had in America, it is so nice to now be in familiar surroundings with our dear family amongst the gorgeous spring blossoms. Noah has already bonded beautifully with Grandma & Grandad which is a delight to see, and bodes well for us all to create some wonderful memories over the next three weeks.

Noah wins the Find the Soldier in the Garden Game

....is amazed to find 'Poppa's Tartoes' loaded on a tractor halfway around the world, and enjoys a game of catch with Granddad

Below are a couple more blogs of our travel story and our slightly manic few days lead-up to the big trip.

The Trials of Travelling with Toddlers

Having now made it halfway round the world and with the benefit of a a few hours sleep in a real bed, we can probably be far more objective about how we found long-haul travel with a toddler than we might have been had we written this last night.

All in all, I think we survived the ordeal quite well. We really couldn’t fault the Auckland – LA leg, as we got bulkhead seats with extra leg room and Noah was able to sleep in a bassinet, even though he was rather too big for it with feet sticking out over the edges, but he slept 8 hours of the 12 hour journey and we even managed about 6 hours ourselves. Getting through LA airport customs was an absolute doddle compared with what we had been expecting, and I think we were feeling rather pleased with ourselves after Stage 1.

We always knew Stage 2 would be a bit more trying. What with having to allow 3 hours for checking in at LA with so many additional security measures, then an 11-hour flight to Frankfurt, a 4-hour wait and then another 1.5 hour flight to Bristol, it was bound to be more of a challenge. We were pleasantly surprised and rather fortunate to get an upgrade to Business Class on the LA-Frankfurt leg, it had definitely been a factor in choosing a Lufthansa ticket as they are known to be pretty good at upgrading industry travellers and they didn’t fail to disappoint this time either! We even had a spare seat between us for Noah, so the 3 of us travelled like kings with so much space! Having said that, and this is going to sound a little ridiculous, but none of us could get comfortable on the lie-flat beds, they aren’t actually flat, and are on more of a 30 degree angle with your feet lower than your head and poor Noah kept sliding down the bed in his sleep as he moved around so we had to keep moving him up which disturbed him, and neither Mark or I got any real sleep to speak of either as it was very noisy (we were right by the galley and toilet, and there were two other young children who were up all night, and a guy behind us snoring like a freight train!). So what should have been an amazing experience didn't quite turn out to be all it was cracked up to be.

The effects of several days of travelling and time-zone changes kicked in for Noah by the time we were waiting in Frankfurt. Again we were fortunate enough to have business class lounge passes but Noah was pretty ratty by this point, and we were very conscious of trying to keep him quiet so as not to disturb all the other travellers in the lounge. It was a BIG relief to touch down in Bristol some 21 hours after setting out from our hotel in LA.

Last night Noah was awake 3-4 times as his body clock was clearly struggling with the 8-hour time-zone change from LA to England, and after surviving all the flights without the need for any drugs, we finally gave in and administer some Phenergan, as much for our sanity in trying to get a few hours unbroken sleep into all of us as for anything else.

We are very pleased that we had packed such a big arsenal of new activities for the plane, sticker books, magna doodle, fuzzy felt set, mini chalk board, videos on the iPod etc as his attention span was not particularly long on any one activity! I really sympathise with any parent who has to go on a long trip with a wee one, and hats off to any parents who are brave enough to travel with more than one child in tow at a time!

From The Week That Was....

You know when you have one of those weeks? Well last week was like that for us. After the doctor told us on Tuesday morning that Noah’s ear was still pretty inflamed and warned us we might not be able to travel on Saturday, we got a bit of a shock. Suddenly we were thrown into focusing on how best to get Noah well by the weekend so he didn’t go to day-care at all, Mark and I were suddenly juggling how to get through all our remaining workload at work whilst looking after Noah too, so Mark worked 7am-3pm so I could then work 3pm-10pm. Unfortunately, my study went out the window for the week so it was a good thing that I had already finished all my preparation for the first workshop.

The extra strain and busyness this put on an already busy week was evidenced in me managing to trip on a stair on my way to my first workshop, coming away with a grazed elbow and two black kneecaps to show for it. It could have been a whole lot worse than it was so I am counting myself very lucky just to have a few bruises rather than broken bones! Then as Mark came to collect me from the workshop to go to the airport, some lunatic came round a corner and drove straight into our car on the driver’s side. Luckily it was only surface damage to the paint work and the driver paid Mark $200 in cash there and then rather than go through insurance.

So you can imagine our utter relief to actually get on the plane on Saturday afternoon, as there were a few moments this week when we really did wonder whether we would ever make it!

13 April 2008

Prayer for Travelling Mercies

Six sleeps to go, and we're feeling more than a little nervous. This has been one of the most unpleasant weekends we have had in a long time. Noah has come down with a virus which appears to include an ear infection, and so we were straight down to the after hours doctor at 8am Saturday morning. He had been a bit peaky later in the week running a bit of a temperature at daycare, and was really not himself when he woke up very early at 5.45 on Saturday. So we are dosing him up with antibiotics three times daily, Pamol and a lot of love, and praying like mad he is well again by Saturday for our long-haul flights.

He has been very miserable with it all, grizzling, off his food, and really not knowing what he wants most of the time. Mark went out at lunchtime on Saturday to play his first game of football in 13 years (as goalie), and when Noah woke up from his nap and Daddy wasn't home, he could not be comforted, crying solidly for an hour and a half. I tried all the tricks in my repetoire to calm him and then some, but nothing worked...until we went up to the park and Mark met us up there. Boy were we both relieved to see him.

Today was not AS bad, but he was still very upset after his nap and it took the better part of an hour for him to stop grizzling, and at points today there was still nothing that would help distract or comfort him.

Mark is likely to have to take the day off tomorrow so has gone into work tonight to try and get through some work as we still have so much to get through at work this week before we can leave on Friday. I'm snowed under with my Chartered Accounting study still to be done with my 10 hour workshop to attend Friday evening and Saturday daytime, and I have to admit to feeling very guilty about even taking five minutes out to compose this.

Needless to say, there's no photos (and no time for photos) on this post, and we leave you all with a special request for lots of prayers for Noah to bounce back completely before we have to board that plane on Saturday afternoon......

So UK here we come...whether we're ready for it or not! Our next blog is likely to wing its way to you from Stoke-sub-Hamdon, Somerset, ENGERLAND!!!

06 April 2008

Not a lot....

Well...two weeks until we embark on Noah's first big trip and the packing has already begun!! Sad I know, but when you've got a toddler a game plan has to be adhered to.

Not much to report this week....$1000 spent on our car (a new radiator) with a possible $1000 more when we get back (Cam belt!!)....afternoon tea with Noah's antenatal friend 'Grace'....and some gardening on Sunday as Mark went wild with the clippers and saw on the olive trees and ended with a trip to the rubbish dump..mind you it looks a lot tidier now! Fish and Chips with Jules (Baba) on Saturday night and now the clocks have gone back, so it's dark and cold (winter has nearly arrived!!)

We will write more next week when we've got a bit more time, in our last blog before we go. Until then a few photo's of our weekend....enjoy....


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