Sunday, July 20, 2008

What a Difference a Year Makes

One year ago we started something new. Now look, everything is different. We are happy and look forward to the next adventure that will be coming in a few months.
We decided to take a trip for our anniversary, besides it won’t be too long before Beth is not allowed to fly. There were already some apprehensive looks on the part of the cabin crew as we boarded our flight. Somehow they must have known in advance that we will be parents soon because they put us in the “family” section, babies and toddlers all around, and for good measure bratty teenagers behind us. We picked up on some parenting techniques, good and bad. We can only hope that our new one will travel well.

Tasmania was beautiful. We had found accommodation through the Lonely Planet guide, and they did not steer us wrong. Cute little theme cottages that are within walking distance of the center of Launceston. Ours was the “Welsh” cottage complete with a large tub and chamber pot. The tub is for use, the pot for decor. Beth pretended to sit in the parlor waiting for gentleman callers whilst I sipped tea in the kitchen.

Some friends had told us about Freycinet National Park and the excellent hiking there. I was a bit dubious about the hiking, but Beth reassured me that she is “pregnant, not an invalid”, and she is always up for that sort of thing. I love that about her. After the park ranger eyed the bump under Beth ’s jacket she told us that it is a three hour strenuous hike….it didn’t matter as we wanted to see the famous wineglass bay. The beach at wineglass bay was ranked by Outside magazine as one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world. Apparently since that ranking, many a tourist and family have shown up at the park headquarters and asked for directions to drive to the beach. The only problem is that the beach is only attainable through a strenuous 1.5 hour one way trip. There is no road. Showing up in beach gear with flip flops isn’t going to get a person very far. Maybe the difficult hike is what keeps the beach so beautiful.

The beach definitely was worth the trip. However, we both admit that we missed a GREAT photo opportunity. Last year at our wedding, Beth posed on the rocks at Lutsen with the blue waters of Lake Superior stretched out behind her. Now, I’ll include that photo, but I’ll also include a photo of the rocks at Wineglass bay. Why, oh why, didn’t we put Beth and her rounded belly up on the rocks and reenact the same photo. Exact title of this missing shot would be “One year later”.

In addition to the hike at Freycinet, we toured the natural beauty of Launceston and enjoyed a great lunch in a restaurant that was fashioned out of an old barn. Tasmania is green and lush and beautiful. It’s a bit like Portland , Oregon meets Alaskan fishing village. It’s only a short flight from Melbourne , but its island setting makes the climate completely different. It’s cooler, but more temperate year round and rainy. Launceston is the second largest city, but it felt more like a bustling little town. No traffic, no large buildings, a complete 180 from our mini New York setting where we now reside.

We are home now, and tucked in to our new city awaiting the arrival of our wee one. No airline will take Beth as a passenger from this point on and any travel we do will be by car. We are living vicariously through the travel stories of our other expat friends who seem to be flying everywhere.

For us….we have reached the milestone of one year of marriage and so much has happened so fast in our lives. Let the nesting begin.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Tadpole Diaries #3

June 12 :
Eric and I returned to Melbourne on another epic 22 hour flight. It’s nice to have each other on the flight and the selection of movies comes in very very handy. I can highly recommend the movie “Lars and the Real Girl”. Seriously. It’s a horrid premise, but the movie is about acceptance and dealing with difference and we both enjoyed it a great deal. It definitely was better than my other selection, “The Other Boleyn.” Two thumbs down for that one

I remained as awake as possible on the flight so that I would remember to walk around, drink lots of water, and exercise the legs whenever possible. (Pregnant women are prone to blood clots)
I wasn’t uncomfortable…it was just strange to be up when everyone around me was sleeping.

We arrived bright and early on a Monday morning but two of our bags didn’t. You just know it instantly when the carousel goes around and around and you spot some of your bags grouped closely together, but the others don’t appear in the next two rotations. It turns out one bag was sent to Brisbane and the other remained in LA.

We had to wait at the counter and describe the bags. One was, of course, the bag that contained almost ALL our new stuff for baby and us as well as some electronic goods that we probably should have carried on but didn’t have the room. Murphy’s’ law dictates that would be the bag that goes missing.

The other bag was our new baby car seat. The folks working at the baggage office looked distraught when we told them about the car seat. They explained how stringent the laws were in Australia and told us they would need to organize to get us a carrier for our use to get home. Eric just smiled at them and declared, “Oh, No worries, the baby is still in the carry-on stage” and he patted my belly. The baggage people then looked down at the rest of me and began to laugh. Then they assured us the car seat would arrive sometime in the next three months.

In case you are wondering, the bag of everything else arrived late that night and we were relieved to see it. The car seat arrived a few days later. Apparently it got a bit lost in LA. Hmmm…I’m picturing the car seat on a Hollywood tour….

Well, our lives have returned to the slower cadence of life in Australia and we certainly talk a great deal about the fun we had in Minnesota. It was two weeks of fast paced, filled days and fun with family and friends. Sigh. It’s always that fun there, isn’t it?

As Eric explained in his last entry, our return to AU wasn’t exactly glorious with him losing his job and me taking a rather impressive fall on our very first day back. I’m still nursing a bruised knee and elbow and Eric is madly searching for employment. Despite all of this, we remain incredibly happy. These pregnancy hormones are working wonders for my mood and Eric never really feels sorry for himself over anything. It’s a lovely quality that I admire in him.

June 18:
Today we went to visit our very first daycare center. We were met at the door by a very peppy teacher as well as the director of the center. They spilled over about the good attributes of the place and took us on a tour of the rooms. The rooms all have one way mirrors and we could watch without being seen. It was like a zoo tour with children at the center. The director emphasized the “natural” environment, lack of plastic in the place, fantastic outdoor facilities, and the vegetarian meal plan. They both talked about how they redirect rather than discipline children. They went on and on and we ate it all up. The place was like the organic food market of day care centers and we loved it instantly. Bring on the natural children we say!

All we need is someone to hold our little baby and to love it, and feed it, and pick it up when it cries. Who really cares about a natural environment? We are such Suckers!
Alas, we put our names on the waiting list anyway. The waiting list is apparently about a year’s wait. How can this be?

June 21:
I’m beginning to hate the “waiting list” for daycares. Three tours in and we still don’t have a place. We are starting to move farther and farther from our apartment.

One that we went to yesterday had a large sign on the door that read "There have been SEVERAL cases of head lice lately...please check your children". The word SEVERAL was all capitals and underlined many times.

When we left there my head itched all over. I couldn't help it.

Eric says "There will be no lice in our house...all children who get lice will have their head shaved and that's final."

However, at this point, we are even hoping the house of lice calls us with an opening for daycare.

June 28
Our first parenting class! Hooray. We were so excited about this class all week and we looked forward to the possibility of meeting other soon-to-be-parents. However, when it came down to the organization of the day, we completely blew it! We had planned our day out well…wake up, go to the gym, eat lunch, go to parenting class and then go straight to our friend Lou’s birthday party. It was to be a brilliant day.
However, I slept in due to bouncing baby keeping me up all night, Eric got into a very long skype chat with a friend, and we decided to blow off the gym. Neither of us ever looked at the time and we read the paper online, put away laundry and took leisurely showers. Suddenly, Eric yelled, “We have 20 minutes to get there!” It became a mad dash to get out of the house and to the hospital. The instructions strictly stated, “DON”T BE LATE as our doors close 30 minutes after the start of the session.” We arrived at 15 minutes late for class and the doors to the building were locked! We had to ring the room and have the instructor come down to get us. She was less than pleased with these tardy American expats.

We had to parade through the room and take our seats in the front. Eric’s chair had a real looking baby on it and he, along with all the other men in the room, had to hold the baby on his lap for the first hour of class. Everyone else’s baby was sort of cute and cuddly and ours had an odd grimace on its face and unnaturally blue eyes.

We watched video after video and heard graphic details about delivery and breastfeeding. I’m glad the days when men wait in the lobby and the baby comes to them all spic and clean is a thing of the past. But today they tell you so much information you feel like it could be a college major. Also, the amount of "what if's" are terribly frightening.
There must be a happy medium somewhere.

One of the other pregnant women next to us let out a big sigh during a “how to settle your baby” video. It garnered a few laughs from the room, but scorn from the teacher.
I suddenly didn’t feel so bad about being late – the teacher was rather stern about everything.

Eric and I both thought the class was to be 1.5 hours long, but apparently is was 3.5 hours long. We were now going to be late for the afternoon party. At the break during class, Eric went to call our friends but realized he had forgotten his phone. I didn’t have their number and they are not listed. So, to just keep this comedy of errors going for the whole day, we whisked out of class as soon as it was over, didn’t have time to stop at home and change out of our jeans, and we showed up two hours late for an intimate and rather dressy dinner party.

Can I just wake up and do this day all over again?

June 29
Got on the scale at the gym today. Thank goodness they measure me in kilos because I don’t really want to see this number in pounds. In case inquiring minds want to know…its 11 kilo’s. (or 1.7 stone) ugh.
I sat on Eric’s lap the other day and he let out a grunt. I guess the idea of throwing myself into his arms wouldn’t be such a good idea right now.

June 30
I’m reading the literature from the parenting class. Some essentials for our new bub include:

LOTS of bunny rugs,
Chubba chums for delivery
A cot
A good pram
Barley sugars (also for delivery)

Time to pull out the Australian/English dictionary.

July 2
One of my coworkers who is on maternity leave rung me tonight to see how I was doing. Just as she called, her dog started barking wildly in the background. “No worries,” she declared, “he’ll settle down, he just spotted a magpie.” The dog never settled down. Then, her 3 year old son began making loud car noises in the background. “Finn’s just being silly and he loves to be near me when I’m on the phone…I’ll just speak up.” Suddenly she was yelling to be heard over loud car sounds and frantically barking dog. At last, her 3 month old began to scream and she just kept talking. I couldn’t hear her anymore and found myself yelling into the phone as well. “Oh, hang on a minute, let me get my baby settled on the breast and we can keep talking.” About 15 seconds passed and she just picked up where she left off. Finally, over loud baby cooing, car sounds of a three year old and a now madly crazed barking dog, I stated, “Do you need to go and tend to things? We can continue this conversation later.” “Oh, no,” she said, “things are great right now and they get wild later, this is a really good time to have a chat.”

Really? That was a good time? REALLY????????

July 3
Last night I went to dinner with several coworkers. I have been comfortable up to this point, but last night I had something (a foot, a hand?) crammed up under my lower right rib. I couldn’t lean over to eat properly and I longed to tilt back my chair. Instead I sat bolt upright and tried to work the foot or hand or knee or whatever it was out of my rib. Today the foot was gone, but tonight it is back again. I still have 12 more weeks. Will this body part remain under my rib for the rest of these weeks? Ouch.

July 3 (later)
Citizenship. One would think that having a child in Australia would entitle said child to an Aussie passport. We assume this because we are American’s, and in the US, we give out citizenship at birth. Did you know that this is not the case in the majority of the world? In fact, according to my internet search, there are 5 countries that give out citizenship by birth alone. They are….(drum roll)….Canada, the US, Panama, Ireland, and France. Get us to France! Our child could then work in the EU! (Maybe this is what Brad and Angelina are thinking). Some countries only honor the nationality of the mother, some only the nationality of the father. It’s all very interesting.

I was hoping to give the gift of dual citizenship, but alas, it shall not be granted. At dinner last night, my coworkers were coming up with all sorts of schemes for citizenship. Some even offered to put their partners/husbands on the birth certificate in the spot where Eric’s name should be….

Don’t worry, Eric thought it was funny too. You can have a laugh about it.

Right now, I’m actually a hostage in Australia. I can not leave the country until late November at the earliest. I have health insurance only for AU and no company will give me travel insurance after 26 weeks of pregnancy. Then, I can’t leave with the baby until I have a valid US passport for the child. (Can’t you just see THAT little passport photo!) I’m an Australian hostage. Trapped on a large island.
That’s ok. I don’t know where I’d go anyway and I’m content to stay. This foot/rib thing wouldn’t bode well in an airplane seat anyway.

July 4
Happy Fourth of July everyone!
Or as the Australians say,”Happy day of your nations independence.” This, from a country where we celebrate the Queen’s birthday…how far away is mother England anyway?