Blois and Bordeaux

Exactly a year ago my husband and I went to Poitiers and Bretagne, for a relaxing break before a busy summer welcoming bébé. This year’s trip was actually pretty similar in spirit, despite having bébé along with us to visit Blois and Bordeaux. We took things slow, had a “no car” day, and even got in some time at the hotel’s pool and spa in Blois. Sure, we slept (much) less than during last year’s vacation, but we came back on a Thursday again (well, technically very early Friday morning), giving us a few more days to chill at home.

We had originally intended to go abroad, to see how bébé does on a short plane ride. But my husband has been wanting to go to Bordeaux for ages and since last year wasn’t really ideal for lots of wine tasting, we decided to go for bébé’s first road trip instead. Since he’s also never visited any of the châteaux in the Loire valley, we broke up driving the first day to stop in Blois. I figured if bébé got grumpy and we couldn’t visit anywhere else, Blois has a château so we could at least see one.

Château de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau

We ended up being able to see another in Chenonceau (which I’m pretty sure I visited in high school – FIFTEEN years ago, what?!) because bébé is turning out to be a pretty good traveller. He’s just so into anything new, and the weather was so nice, he was in a great mood almost the entire trip. We tried to plan our outings so he could take his morning nap in the car/carrier, and get back to the hotel for his afternoon nap. He never slept much in the mornings, but longer afternoon naps made up for it, and it meant we could have some much needed downtime at the hotel as well.

Bordeaux
Bordeaux

 

 

Plus it was very hot in the afternoons, so it worked out well that we mostly visited things in the mornings. We’re all up between 6 and 7, which meant we visited Bordeaux and the Dune du Pilat with zero crowds. An unexpected upside to travelling with a baby!

Dune du Pilat
Dune du Pilat

Our last day in Saint-Émilion was maybe the hardest, since it was the one rainy day, and bébé was pretty grumpy. My husband got to taste and buy lots of wine, and I got to visit some really old stuff, so it was still a pretty good day. Bébé was in a better mood by lunch, and charmed the pants off everyone in the restaurant. He kept looking around at everyone, like he was following their conversations, and even laughing when they laughed. Just adorable.

Saint-Émilion
Saint-Émilion

Unfortunately, adorable only lasted so long, and he threw a pretty big fit about having to go to bed in the car, since we wanted to drive the 8 hours home without stopping. But all things considered, he did really well, and we seem to have worked out a good routine while travelling with him. No other trips planned for the moment, but with more and more sunny days ahead, hopefully we’ll be able to explore close to home this Spring and Summer.

 

Positive outlook

A few weeks ago, I read one of those “A few simple things to increase your happiness” type articles. Since it was almost the beginning of the month, and they really were pretty simple, I decided to try them to see what would happen.

The two things that seem to be making the biggest difference are 5 minutes of meditation per day, and writing down 5 things I’m grateful for/happy about. I do both of these before I go to bed, and it really helps to reflect on the positive things that happened during the day, rather than grumble about the negative. The meditation is good practice for calming my mind, since it’s usually all over the place at a hundred miles an hour. I try to picture myself on a beach, and the sound of my breathing as the waves. Definitely a peaceful way to end the day.

I didn’t think these things were really changing anything until yesterday, which should have been a bad day. My new shampoo is awful and my hair looked even dirtier than before my shower. The trains were all sorts of messed up, we had to get off and change to a different one, so I was later than usual to work. I spilled tea on my pants I’ve only worn once or twice. Lots of higher-ups were stressed and needed my help, which should have stressed me too.

However, the entire day I was in a good mood. Nothing really bothered me.

Once I realized this, I consciously focused on the positive throughout the day. Sushi at lunch was delicious. The sun was shining. It was the last day of work before a week of vacation. And I feel like this positive outlook was showing through and my interactions with people (even the super stressed higher-ups) were all very pleasant.

I’ll admit towards the end of the day, things were a little more frantic as I prepared to leave for a week. But overall, it was a really good day.

Having a little more time to exercise the past few weeks, as well as suddenly sunny and warm weather may be helping too. Whatever the reason, I’m hoping this positive outlook sticks around. If all it takes is 10 minutes before bed to reflect and meditate, it’s definitely time well spent.

 

Nine months

Ninth monthly letter to bébé.

Dear bébé,

The (almost) nine months it took you to get ready to meet the world went by much slower than the past nine months since you were born! You’ve started to interact a lot more with things, people, and food.

You’ve started eating little bits of banana and cooked sweet potato, though getting it into your mouth yourself is still a challenge. You’ve managed a few times, but mostly you seem happy to smash it in your hands while someone else feeds you. You’ll sometimes hold the bottle too, but not always. You seem to like holding the regular bottles more than the “trainer” bottle with handles. You switch between sucking your thumb and using a pacifier, though you seem to prefer the pacifier, since then you can use your hands for all sorts of things.

Things like “reading” your books. You’ve been turning pages for awhile now, but you’ll pick out your favorite between two, and even lift one off the bookshelf. When you open and close the book repeatedly, it seems like you’re trying to find the cover image inside the book. You also like to grab at things on the pages, picking out different colours and favorite faces. So maybe “Where’s Waldo?” would be a good present! “Goodnight gorilla” and “Where’s my hat?” are two of your favorites right now, and you giggle at your favorite parts. Reading is still a big part of your bedtime routine. Your skin is much better this month, but you still only get a bath every other day. Momma’s trying to switch it up and feed your first, then read, to see if that helps with night waking.

You still eat once at night usually, and have been falling back asleep easily most nights to get around 10.5 to 11 hours total. But you’ve gone twice now 9.5 hours straight, which was great. Starting the day at 4:30 wasn’t so fun, but things seem to be heading towards that magical and elusive “sleeping through the night” thing.

However, sleep might be changing soon, since your mattress is in the lower setting now. You sat up and looked over the edge once, so it seemed safer to lower it sooner rather than later. The next step will probably be pulling yourself up to standing in your new, lower crib. You can stand with (lots of) help, and kick your legs like you want to run. You’re starting to use your knees a little bit when crawling, but mostly you like to push up into that downward dog position, or into a sitting position.

You love taking off momma’s glasses, whether to see her better, or just chew on them. You also love anything that crinkles: your toys, paper, bags, clothes . . . Momma and daddy want you to explore, but you’re starting to hear “no” a lot more, and cry a bit when you’re not allowed to put pieces of paper or plastic bags in your mouth. Wires and cords are another high fascination area that unfortunately involves a lot of “no” and crying.

Except for rare occasions (like when you’re crying because you bumped your head while exploring), you’re not much of a cuddler. You need to be facing the world, no matter who’s holding you. So far there’s not a lot of separation anxiety, other than a tiny bit of crying when momma leaves for work in the morning. You don’t really have a “lovey” since anything that’s soft makes you happy. This all seems to be changing slowly, but so far, no dramatic meltdowns at the nanny’s or in new situations.

Speaking of new situations, you did great in Paris, and will hopefully be just as good in Bordeaux later this month. Other plans for this month include another nighttime party for momma and daddy while mamie babysits, and you definitely need a haircut. It’s long enough to get in your eyes, and even covers your ears a little. It’s still a medium brown, but sometimes there are reddish highlights in the sun. Your big blue eyes just make everyone fall in love. You have more and more “chatty” days, still lots of “singing” and a few syllables like “ma” “ba” and “da,” though without attaching them to any objects with consistency yet.

You are tons of fun, and a happy, sociable baby. While your exploration is starting to get safety limits as you get more mobile, it’s still amazing seeing how much you can already do and understand. Full speed crawling and walking is right around the corner, just in time to start exploring outside in the nice weather. This will be a fun month!

Bisous & kisses,

Your momma

Traveling with a baby in Paris

Traveling with a baby in Paris was perhaps not the most relaxing way to spend a weekend, but it turned out really well. I knew any plans I made would depend on the weather and his mood, so I kept things very basic (= see stuff, eat stuff, take cute pictures.)  The main reason we went was so that my husband could take an exam, so I was my own on the train, since he went up Friday night, and for most of the day on Saturday.

I know Paris pretty well, having studied there for a summer in college (which included studying the history of the city, old street maps, and lots and lots of walking around), and we’ve been a few times together as a couple. There was no rush to see everything or disappointment when timing didn’t work out. While it would have been nice to make it into a museum or two, there will be other trips, both with and without bébé, that will be more culture-focused. This weekend was mainly about getting away and navigating a big city (and public transportation!) with a baby in tow.

Transportation

The TGV ride up went very well, though bébé was obviously very interested in everything about the train, so he didn’t fall asleep until we were halfway there. To get everything to the station in the morning meant putting him in the baby carrier, and our bags in the stroller. I picked a hotel close to the train station so we wouldn’t have to deal with bags + baby on the metro.

I didn’t want to attempt the metro on my own. After reading other posts about bringing babies to Paris, I tried the bus. I think before this weekend I’d taken the bus maybe twice in Paris, and I was a little nervous. But the routes are well indicated on the bus stops, and since I know the city pretty well, it was just a matter of finding one that went in the general direction of where I wanted to go.

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For example, I had planned on meeting my husband at the Champs-Elysees metro station, and originally I was going to take the metro to Concorde and walk from there. But then I found a bus that went from the train station to the Louvre, and then walked through the Tuileries Garden instead. Much more enjoyable than hauling the stroller up and down a million stairs.

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So bébé didn’t get his first metro ride until Sunday, when my husband took him in the baby carrier and I was on diaper bag duty. In general I prefer the carrier, but he’s just so curious now (and big!), I only use it on my own for short trips, when I won’t need a diaper bag. But with the two of us, it meant we could take the metro and explore a little easier and faster than I had the day before with the stroller.

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Getting silly at the Grand Palais

 

Eating

I only breastfed in public once, in a café near the Musée d’Orsay, and no one said anything. I was a little more self-conscious than usual, since bébé was being so fussy and popping off every two seconds to whine, thus making me feel quite exposed and drawing attention to us. I also fed him on the train on the way home, but I had the window seat with my husband next to me so I was a little more comfortable.

Though some of the pictures are quite grey, Saturday afternoon turned out very nice, and bébé got some applesauce in a park. I don’t think he’s ever eaten outside like that, so yay for bébé’s first picnic! I even changed him on a park bench, which he just loved for some reason.

I originally wanted to eat at a Korean Barbecue place for lunch, but it was so tiny, and they just weren’t that friendly. So we left before we even sat down and went to Hippopotamus instead and got both excellent burgers and excellent service. They had a high chair and a coloring book (which he mostly just tore apart, still too little to color!) and waitresses who just loved him. He even got a kiss from one, he was being absolutely adorable.

I know we won’t be able to go to certain types of restaurants for awhile as a family, but I didn’t fully realize it until this weekend. At first since he was so small and slept so easily, we go almost anywhere. Now that he’s bigger, it’ll be more of a challenge finding places that will work for all of us together. Just another reason to look forward to our date nights – grown-up restaurants! But if everywhere can be as nice and welcoming as where we ate this weekend (with good food no less), then I don’t really see it as much of a sacrifice.

The café we went to Sunday morning had a high chair, though it would have been fine if they didn’t since we didn’t stay that long. Bébé managed to grab a croissant off the table when we weren’t looking and started gumming it to death, so this was a trip for firsts! First picnic, first croissant, first metro ride . . .

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Thoughts

I always expect him to be cranky and difficult when we go out for long periods of time in public, but I think I am just anticipating toddler tantrums. Babies are easier I think, or at least ours is, since he loves anything that’s new. Nothing scares him, not loud noises, not dogs, nothing. The only times he cried or fussed was when he was tired. We’ve done a little too well in the “get baby to sleep in his own bed” area, and pretty much anywhere else is a play zone (including our bed, so even if we wanted to cosleep at this point, it would never work). He eventually napped in the baby carrier, and in the stroller, but for much shorter periods, and much later than usual, once he was totally exhausted. This made nighttime sleep a little harder, but not that much worse than usual.

I think the only thing I would have done differently is not taken our portable cot. It’s not that heavy, but it’s larger than an average suitcase so getting it on the train was a little awkward. The hotel had one, but I was worried about safety and hygiene. But we can always bring out own sheets, and I don’t have any good reason to think the hotel’s cots are less safe than ours, since I’ve never tried one before.

So our first trip to Paris as a family of three can definitely be called a success. I’m happy he seems to enjoy exploring France as much as his parents (trips to Beaune and Strasbourg also went well), and it will be exciting to see how he reacts to each new place we take him.