Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Travel vs the diaper change

This is one of the best travel tips I can give you. Since Noah was born we’ve traveled extensively on three continents, by plane, train, boat, car, bike, stroller, metro… you name it! There are lots of little tricks I’ve come up with to get me through those days but I will share with you now the most useful thing I’ve learned in traveling with a baby and now toddler preschooler.

Learn to change your kid’s diaper while they’re standing.

I can say that most places are not equipped with nursing or changing stations. Most bathrooms are nasty and even if they have a changing station, I worry about the last time it was tended to. When Noah was a baby I used to find a discreet place to recline his stroller and change him there. I can stealth change him if I still need to or change him in the car, but being able to take him to the bathroom with me anywhere, including moving trains, or any non-kid oriented restaurant or store, is really vital to my well-being. It gives us the flexibility to spend the day doing whatever we want, wherever we want without being hampered. Start practicing at home now and thank me later.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Where do we go from here?

One of my biggest fears when I was pregnant was that having a baby would cramp my style. I’m not talking fashion (although, good-bye silk) I’m talking about lifestyle. I was worried we would cease to see the world or lose our desire to leave the house.

At first it was tricky. It took a solid two months for my baby Noah and I to figure each other out, and get in the swing of nursing. But we ripped that travel band-aid off when Noah was only 2 and a half months old on our first 14 hour international flight from Florida back to Kuwait. Two weeks later, we were off to Scotland and a few months after that Israel. We have moved, traveled, visited, and toured many places in Noah’s short two and a half years and I’ll say this about it: It’s worth it.

It’s worth schlepping the bags of diapers and car seats and strollers and 3 changes of clothes up a mountain to see the view. It’s worth the cost of the ticket to see the dots connecting in your child’s mind when they understand that they’re on a train, they’ve seen trains in books and on TV, and played with toy trains. It’s worth the trouble of bringing a change of clothes to a farm so that your toddler hears a cow moo, touches their fur, and sees where the milk comes from. It’s true that in a way he won’t remember these exact experiences, but they are shaping his understanding of the world around him.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this blog and where I want it to go. What do I have to say? My life has profoundly changed since having a child. It has forced me to mature and grow in ways that have been painful and triumphant. I’ve learned to be incredibly comfortable with who I am and I can see a difference in my relationships. But what aspects of my life do I want to share? And if I wear sneakers like 90% of the time and loafers the other 10, does that still qualify me as a High Heeled Traveler?

I say, yes. It does. I named the blog High Heeled Traveler as a rift on Well Heeled Traveler. It’s like the real life version of something that seems fancy. Here’s our life in a nutshell: We move. We travel. We share the world with our growing son. And I try to do it without losing myself. High Heeled to me is asking for my experiences to be elevated, to be better, to be richer. I want to live life deeper and enjoy the moment. Not since becoming a mother did I realize just how quickly life really does pass us by. And it’s in those little moments where we slow down and check it out (sometimes at a toddler’s pace), that we truly feel alive and find that connection to the world around us.

What I want to do in my little corner of the Internet is to start a dialogue about the beauty in the moments no matter if they’re at home, in an exotic far-away place, or on the plane getting there. I hope you’ll continue to join me!

Unaccompanied Tour // 04

Navigating the R&Rs can be a source of both excitement and stress to the unaccompanied family. For non foreign service people, R&R means what it means in normal life, a break, a rest, a vacation. Depending on the post (location) and the length of the assignment, the employee gets one to three R&Rs during their time apart. We actually had one when we were in Kuwait and took a trip to Scotland for Noah's baptism and to visit some friends. For this assignment Gman had three.

While it is exciting to see the person who has been gone, an R&R is also a reality check on relationships, and a really stressful adjustment to the family dynamic. Gman teases me about messing with my routine every time but that's a serious sticking point for me. I'm a creature of intense habit. I got mad at him one time he was home because he did the laundry. It sounds ridiculous but it was something I was used to doing and something so little was magnified by the stress of reuniting.

When we finished our last R&R (praise God!) I took some time to reflect on it. I want to share with you some thoughts, observations, suggestions that we have learned along our almost year and a half of separation in regards to reuniting on R&R.

We found it difficult to pretend "normal life" as if Gman lived there when he came home. Everyone wanted to visit with him and the time slipped from our fingers. After trying to cram our entire lives into an emotional two weeks we decided the best route was to make the time off (usually 2 weeks) a vacation for everyone. It was actually really nice that way, even if Gman came home and we took day trips or just laid around at the beach all day. This way I was off the clock too and we spent more time together instead of me worried about the to-do list while Gman spent time with everyone else. It also helped the dynamic between Noah and us, as children tend to push the boundaries and act up when the separated parent returns. Being on vacation changed the rules anyways and he was less likely to push us. 

Dealing with extended family can also be difficult at times. Of course everyone wants to visit with the person who has been away and they're only home a few short weeks. But the reality is connecting with one's children is really the most important thing. Adults understand how to use a telephone and can maintain a relationship most of the time through that and FaceTime, etc. It's more difficult for children, especially little ones and they really need that physical touch to maintain a connection. We found it helpful to arrange special time with our parents and sisters so everyone felt like they got one on one but it didn't take away from time with Noah. We also had a special happy hour for friends and family who wanted to see us. 

Another thing that really helped us reconnect in such a short time was to make lists of things we wanted to be sure to talk about. We didn't really talk over the phone too much or even in email when he was away so if I wanted to be sure and ask about something financial or mention a cute story that happened I wrote it down. It sounds excessive but, again, the time goes by quickly and there are a lot of distractions. Having a list helps ensure you talk about the things you had been waiting to talk about for a few months of separation.

I hope this is helpful to you!

Please see my previous posts on surviving The Unaccompanied Tour // 01 02 03
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