Trip to Sealife

I’m not entirely sure what my brother-in-law does for a living, but his job seems to net him an incredible number of perks. Luckily for us, one of these included discounted tickets to Sealife – the aquarium on London’s South Bank. Mr Techno had work, but Tom and I headed there last Sunday to meet Mr Techno’s brother, his sister, her husband, and their daughter, who is the same age as Tom.

It was pretty epically busy, since we had forgotten that it was the last weekend of the Easter holidays. It did take away from the experience a bit, as we had to duck and weave round the crowds to see anything. Also, small toddlers, dark spaces and crowds are not a winning combo. Luckily we didn’t actually lose either of them, but Tom did make a few bids for freedom.

It isn’t the easiest place to take photos either, so apologies for the shockingly poor quality!

Sadly, we were all annoyed from the start by the insistence that you wait in line to have a picture taken before going in, which meant we had a really pointless five minute wait. With the group behind us complaining loudly the whole time.

Once we got into the aquarium proper though, things improved. We saw starfish, seahorses, lion fish, sea rays…and a whole bunch of other fish I can’t really name but which were pretty cool. Tom was especially enamored of the clownfish, despite never having seen Finding Nemo. I liked the various seadragons, which disguise themselves as leaves, seaweed, branches etc.

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We walked through the shark tunnel too, though that seemed to freak the toddlers out more than anything. Then there was a rainforest section, which included alligators, piranhas and terrapins.

By this point, the toddlers were a bit over the whole thing and wanted their lunch and naps. So we were pleased to see a sign saying we were ‘surfacing’ which we assumed meant we were near the end. Sadly…not so much. There weren’t really any fish left to see, but we had to walk through two further exhibits – one about the Thames which was mostly focused on the sewer system – and one with looped clips from Frozen Planet. Both of which seemed pretty pointless. And of course there was the obligatory gift shop.

Overall I have to say I wasn’t too impressed. With the discount we got and the toddlers being free, it was just about worth the money. Without the discount… I would have been pretty disappointed. The crowds didn’t help of course, nor the toddler crankiness at the end. But it felt like there was a lot of filler, especially towards the end. Plus the penguins were on holiday (due back in May) which was disappointing!

Fortunately, the food market on the South Bank filled the food requirements and we headed back to my in-laws house in Waterloo for toddler naps.

“No, No, No!”

Tom may only be 19 months old, but it’s clear that toddler-stubbornness is already setting in. Handily, he has decided to learn the word ‘no’ in order to explain to us exactly what we are doing wrong. Which currently seems to be everything!

To add to the already long list of things Tom doesn’t like, which includes things like getting dressed, having his nappy changed, having his teeth brushed by other people, having his face wiped, having his hair washed, vegetables… we now have to add baths without bubbles, getting into the high chair, getting out of the high chair, and having to take his shoes off.

I have to assume that being sick so much lately is partly to blame – we certainly have a huge step up in tantrums when he’s tired, and his response to being ill is to sleep a lot (I know. We are very lucky. Don’t hate me). Sadly though, I suspect much of this is just the wonderful world of self-assertiveness that is toddlerdom.

Fortunately, one of the few things Tom doesn’t say no to is outdoor play. In fact, I narrowly diverted a tantrum on Saturday morning when he brought me his shoes, and then his coat, so we could go play in the garden. He was still in his pajamas, wasn’t wearing a nappy, and refused to put his blanket down…but we rolled with it anyway. After all, next door’s cat was sitting on our fence so clearly needed it’s peace interrupting!

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Oops…

Well that was a slightly unintentional blog holiday, though those who have seen my last post can probably work out why!

Fortunately, Tom is now recovered from the conjunctivitis, oral thrush, a bout of croup and getting his lower canines through. And my stomach has settled down after two separate incidences of food poisoning (I’d like to point out that neither of these was caused by food I had cooked…). So normal service should now resume, assuming we have no further random illnesses in the near future.

Despite the various small disasters of the last few weeks, we have still been enjoying some outdoor play. Luckily, Easter fell in a rare patch where neither Tom nor I was actively ill, so we were able to enjoy a lovely weekend in the country with my family. My dad is currently living in Singapore for work and my sister’s boyfriend lives in Abu Dhabi, so it is a rare and wonderful occasion when all of us are able to be together in the same room. Sadly, Mr Techno did have to work most of the weekend, but managed to sneak down on Saturday to spend the day with us all (or, rather, to watch the rugby whilst eating his own body weight in hot cross buns).

The weather was less than fantastic, apart from Good Friday which was gloriously sunny. Tom happily splashed water in the garden and ‘helped’ his grandfather install a new watering system for the potted plants (I suggested a watering can, but apparently this is too lo-tech). Then we went to the park where Tom and my dad had some good bonding time. They see each other so rarely, but they really get on well. My dad is a bit British when it comes to emotions, but lets his guard down much more with Tom. Let’s hope that bond will last!

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Despite the wet weather the rest of the weekend, we managed to visit another park on Saturday and Tom and my mum went for a ‘nature walk’ around the garden on Sunday. They found some frog spawn and Tom chased the chickens. Or they chased him. Hard to tell really.

We’ve also been enjoying getting out on the Marshes now that the weather is warmer and it has been wonderful to be able to hang the washing outside – with the result that the laundry basket is actually empty for the first time in about…19 months?

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One Hellish Week

Urgh. Things have not been happy in the Wildling household just lately. Tom came down with oral thrush, which we can only assume was the result of him having been on antibiotic eyedrops for his conjunctivitis. He also picked up a cold from nursery, and, just to cap it all off, his lower canines are coming through.

Needless to say, we have had an extremely upset baby. He went from sleepy and clingy on Saturday, to screaming in pain at every mealtime on Sunday. By Monday last week, he was refusing to eat at all. Thankfully he would accept milk.

We’ve been treating him with antifungal gel four times a day, which has almost cleaned up the thrush. After three days of not eating, he began cautiously accepting weetabix (with added probiotic) on Thursday and is now basically back to normal with food.

Mr Techno and I are lucky to have been able to switch out most of the week, so neither one of us has had to take the full burden of caring for our sick little one. But it’s not been easy for any of us and I’m very glad that the end is in sight.

Unsurprisingly, all of this means we’ve not been getting out much! Apart from to the doctors of course. The new, though still unfinished, mud kitchen has been a bit of a saviour as a distraction when we have gotten out into the garden. But the lack of outdoor time was not helping my patience.

In fact…I did have a bit of a meltdown on Saturday morning. Tom was refusing to nap. I’ve not been feeling well either, and all I wanted was a hot bath. And Mr Techno had to go to work. So I was pissed off. And feeling like an awful mother for not putting my wants to one side to be there for my sick baby. All of which I kind of shouted at Mr Techno. Except with a lot more swear words (Tom wasn’t in the room at the time). Seriously, the man has the patience of a saint sometimes.

Anyway. It was fine once I had the rant out of my system. I got my bath, although it had to involve a lot of Tom ‘help’…so I was joined by lots of toys and had to avoid getting my hair washed. Then we went to meet friends at Victoria Park. We had lunch, which Tom ate (it was mine, but hey, he was eating) and a long walk. And suddenly everything was manageable again.

Thank goodness for the healing power of the great outdoors!

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One Year as a Working Mum

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This time last year, Tom was 6 months old. And I was starting back at work, after 7 months of maternity leave. He had started at nursery two weeks before – one week of settling in and one week of early pick ups – and had mostly settled well, apart from a few napping issues. I was still a bit shaky about leaving him, but could see he was being well cared for.

I know it’s not the case for everyone, but I actually really enjoy being a working mum. Although I miss my boy whenever I’m away from him. I really enjoy my job. I’m extremely lucky that my circumstances worked out to allow me to come back just three days a week (job-sharing with the lady I covered when she was on maternity leave). Also…my job involves organising training courses for a building conservation charity. I get to do things like hang out at the Tower of London or Hampton Court Palace all day, calling it work. It’s not so much with the financial rewards, but the pay off in job satisfaction and life/work balance is more than worth it.

Don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t all been plain sailing. I was still breastfeeding when I went back, and pumping at work was not much fun. I sometimes have to travel around the country to run courses, which means leaving Tom overnight. And the logistics of childcare are often a bit mind boggling. As is the cost!

For the most part though, having something outside my family life gives me a lot of personal reward. It has led to a more equal parenting relationship between Mr Techno and I, as we both work and both stay home with Tom. And I’d even argue that it makes me a better mum – I don’t do well with being home full time. Being away part of the week means I am more willing to concentrate fully on Tom when we are together.

My situation wouldn’t suit everyone – I know there are lots of working mums who would rather be home with their babies. And plenty of stay at home mums who get lots of satisfaction from being there for their kids full time. But for me, this seems to be a good balance.