Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Journey to Aberdeen

We are off on our big adventure of traveling for 2-3 months! The last week in Cambridge was crazy. There were meltdowns. There were goodbyes. There were lots of meals out at good places with good friends. None of us got much sleep, mostly because all the activity and uncertainty meant that Walter wouldn’t sleep much during the day. There were too many long nights of packing and cleaning until the wee hours of the morning.

Walter enjoying a farewell dinner with some of my friends at The Old Spring
Sunday, the day we had to move, was one of the most stressful days I’ve had in a long time. We ended up missing our train to Scotland by 5 minutes. It was so frustrating, but there was nothing we could do. David and I had both gone without full night’s sleep for weeks, taking no breaks when Walter slept just so we could work on packing etc, but there just weren’t enough hours in the day. Unfortunately we had to buy new tickets, at full price, for our journey.

The train journey was fairly arduous until we reached Edinburgh. For one thing, we had two transfers and a lot of very heavy luggage + Walter in his chair. For another, the train that took us from Peterborough to Edinburgh was incredibly busy and the man in charge was a real jerk. We had boarded the train at a car that bridged first & standard class. One of the men asked us to move our bags further down the train, but this was physically impossibly because it was so crowded. So he suggested that we move our bags into the First Class vestibule, one car away, as it wasn’t busy. David dutifully hauled all our luggage there, straining his back in the process. We then had to take apart Walter’s pram to get it down the aisle. We settled down for the four hour ride...

An hour or less into the trip the conductor came through to inspect tickets. He started complaining that we had our things in the first class vestibule. Then he said that we couldn’t ride there because we didn’t have first class tickets (keep in mind we were sitting on the floor in a space between cars!). I explained that we were told to go there, and he called me a liar. Things began to escalate, so I ended up having to purchase 2 first class upgrades so that we could continue to ride on the train. He then made us move our bags a third time, into a luggage carrier-car, complaining all the while that we hadn’t put them there in the first place. And because he was rushing us and bustling all our bags off the train to be run down to this special car, the bag containing all of Walter’s food and diapers ended up getting locked up, which meant my poor little boy had to brave the remaining three hours of the journey in a wet diaper and with no food. Can you tell we’re going to be writing a letter of complaint to the rail company?

There was a crew change in Newcastle and things began to improve. We made the most of our first class tickets by eating 3 complimentary lunches between us (we were also starving from a busy day with little time to eat!). We began chatting with a man sitting across the aisle from us, and I am certain that he was Saint Nicholas in disguise (his name being Nick). Every time Walter woke up he would just gaze in Nick's direction, remaining quiet and content for the whole journey. This gentleman then helped us carry all of our luggage into the central part of Edinburgh-Waverly station. We thought that was the last we’d see of him, but as we were heading to our Aberdeen train he appeared beside us and helped us carry all our luggage onto the train, even though he was staying in Edinburgh! 

Relaxing on the Aberdeen train

Still relaxing. Apparently Walter really likes trains!
We were able to use the disabled seating area on the Aberdeen train, which meant we had more than enough room for Walter, and we could just relax for the last part of the journey. Pippa & Andy met us right at our train and we were soon settled into Andy’s apartment for a very late night dinner and a good night’s sleep. It was so good to be with friends and to be able to relax!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Up to Walter's Sixth Week

Lots going on! Sometimes I’m ridiculously stressed and other times it’s ok. So here’s what’s happening:

- We’re having to leave our college accommodation on September 23rd, so we decided to use it as an excuse to do some extended traveling (and working for David). We’re heading to Aberdeen in Scotland for a week to visit our good friends Pippa & Andy for a week and then we’re heading off to Berlin for 2 months (October & November). I’m really hoping that after that we’ll be able to come to Canada to visit family & friends, but we need to wait and see how often/when David has to be back at Cambridge for the last bits of his PhD. 

Pippa, Andy, & David at Wimpole Estate last year. We were chasing sheep.
- I’ve spent the last 5 weeks taking care of Walter, finding a place to live in Germany, organising paperwork (yuck yuck yuck) and figuring out what to do with our stuff. Now I’m packing. Fortunately Walter enjoys watching me pack. I feel bad for the little guy as instead of playing “this little piggy” with his fat little toes or assembling all sorts of bright coloured spinny things for him to watch and play with he instead gets to watch me bubble wrapping china and putting books into boxes. It’s educational at least! I tried to entertain him by spinning Christmas tree ornaments in front of his face. He wasn’t amused.

- For the first time in my life I’ve had to buy boxes for a move. This disgusts me. I have to pay for cardboard! But it’s been slim pickings to get them in Cambridge and, after a discussion with our moving company, we decided that it would be the more prudent option for long term storage / international shipping. In fact it’s only the thought that we may have to ship the boxes to another country that has consoled me on this.

- I bought a Baby Hawk mei-tei carrier for Walter. I thought it would be ideal. He likes being held and I like using my arms. We could combine our loves! I tried putting him in it this morning. He screamed so loudly you would’ve thought that I was murdering him. Then again he was in a fussy mood and the only thing that was getting any form of approval from him was being carried so that he could see over my shoulder and shriek at The Lamp.

- Walter is fixated on The Lamp in our bedroom. He stares at it. He babbles at it. Occasionally he shrieks at it. Sometimes he cowers from it and whimpers. If I turn it on and off he chortles (in a way that suggests he’s impressed that mummy can master The Lamp). I’m not sure if The Lamp is his enemy, friend, or if, like David suggested, he thinks the lamp is God. It’s not even a nice lamp. I feel really bad that the one thing in the place that he’s formed an attachment to doesn’t even belong to us so he’ll have to leave it behind.

The Lamp


- I used to wonder how I’d manage at raising a little boy, instead of a little girl. Obviously David would know how to play like a boy, but would I? Thanks to growing up with a baby brother I’m realising every day that it’s going to be AWESOME. Having Walter is like getting to relive my childhood with John, if that makes sense. So not only do I get to have fun with my little son, I get to feel like my brother is here.

Me & Johnnykins, c1990

- Walter loves music so I’ve been utilising that with the packing / internetting that I’ve had to do. He really likes ska & reggae, particularly Desmond Dekker. He bobs his head in time to the music and makes giant baby grins at me when I sing along to “The Israelites”. He also likes a good portion of The Incredible String Band, especially “Black Jack Davie" (we hold hands and 'dance' to it while singing along). And fortunately he also loves it when I sing. Sometimes I think he’s trying to sing along, as he sort of coos along with me with longer noises than when we’re chatting.

- And to finish this off, if you can’t tell I’m absolutely enamored with my little boy. These past six weeks have been incredibly challenging but also amazing. Happy six weeks old, little man!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Walter's Baptism

Our life as a Catholic family is wrapped up in the sacraments of our Church. When we got married we made a vow to raise our children in the Catholic faith. Last weekend, on September 2nd, we had our first public affirmation of that vow when Walter was baptised.

Growing up in a Fundamentalist Christian church, infant baptisms were taboo and thus something I have no experience with. Parents would often choose to have a dedication for their baby, where the whole church would commit to raising the child in the faith, but I only remember my brother’s and, being 6.5 years old at the time, just remember it as being something dreadfully boring which my parents were really excited about. As a Catholic I’ve been present at numerous baptisms, but they were never for families that I was friends with so they flit in & out of consciousness.

I did not really have any expectations for Walter’s baptism, therefore, other than that I would not get much sleep the night before (true), it would be stressful trying to get everything to the church on time (true, but not so bad), and that Walter would probably scream & fuss (also true, but not nearly as bad as I expected). We ended up having a wonderful, blessed day and I was able to see why David was so incredibly excited about it. Apparently it isn’t an inventive form of torturing already worn-out new mothers!

See--we do not look like we are worn out with exhaustion!
We decided to have Walter baptised at our church in Cambridge. Since we have several months of no fixed address coming up it seemed to make the most sense to do it at our home church. We also really didn’t want to travel with an unbaptised baby! The downside was that our families, and Walter’s godparents, couldn’t be with us. However our church community left us feeling so honoured and blessed by the end of the day that we knew we’d made the right decision. It really felt as if our whole community was supporting us in our commitment to raise Walter in our faith. We wouldn’t have had this if we waited until we moved, as we wouldn’t have the same relationship with a parish right off the start.

The Baptism Mass begins with the priest claiming Walter “for Christ” and with us (and our friend Imogen, who stood in as a Godparent) committing to raise Walter as a Christian. Partway through the Mass is the actual baptism, and the whole congregation renews their own baptismal vows and promises to support Walter as he grows in the faith. There are special blessings and prayers for both Walter and for us as a family throughout the Mass. It was lovely. Every time I looked over the congregation I could see my friends smiling at us. As Fr Alban said afterwards, you could just feel the warmth of the sacrament pouring over everyone.

The Christening

Baptizing Walter
After Mass we had a tea & cake party next door. Imogen had baked a beautiful ‘W’ shaped cake for Walter, and I had made a not-so-beautiful cake with his name & baptism date (baking/cake decorating is not one of my skills). 

mad skillz

not-so-mad skillz (and David helpfully pointed out I could have bought a nice cake for less than I spent on icing & implements!)
Loads of people stopped by to have some cake. A couple of the older ladies at our church gave Walter special blessings, something that I had never seen done before but thought was quite beautiful. Our friends had all brought lovely gifts for Walter and he got quite spoiled. All in all it was a lovely party and we felt so blessed to come to the end of our time at Fisher House, at least for now, with so many of our friends around us. 

My little angel taking a post-baptism snooze

Monday, 3 September 2012

One Month with Walter

Walter is one month old today! I can’t believe that he’s been with us for a month already. We’re so happy with our little son and so proud of all his accomplishments:

- he’s outgrown all of his newborn clothes and seems to be gaining weight at a good rate. I had him weighed two weeks ago and He clocked in at just over 9lbs. I wager that he’s up to 10lbs now.

- He can easily hold his head up when he’s on his stomach and can turn it from side to side when he wants to. He loves using this new skill to look into our eyes or to look at mirrors.  He also is fascinated with the bedroom wall (not sure why)

- He loves to ‘climb’, using his feet to push up on us and using his hands to grab shirt collars or necklaces in order to hoist himself higher. He gets really angry when he reaches the top of our shoulders so we’re not sure what he’s hoping to find at the top but it’s clearly not there.

- he’s gotten really good at communicating his wishes for food without crying. He knows to hit his mouth with his fists in response to my asking him if he's a hungry boy

- he’s able to sit in his bouncy chair for up to 30 minutes without needing our direct attention, which is just long enough for me to wash dishes or do some cooking

- he’s learning to suck on his fingers and learning to grab and hold onto things, like his receiving blankets. Sometimes he remembers to hold his soother in his mouth but usually he forgets.He's not a huge fan of his soother unless he has gas pains or is overtired, which I'm pleased with as I don't want him addicted to it.

- he’s not given me a proper smile yet, but his comfort smiles are increasing and sometimes, after particularly long days, he’s sweet enough to cuddle up to me and give me lots of little smiles as he falls asleep.

- he loves talking with us. Mostly it’s just a steady murmur interspersed with some throaty grunts, but he’s getting very definite vowel sounds in there. He responds well to questioning tones of voice which we have quite a lot of fun with.

Needless to say, we’re both fascinated by our little son. It’s nice seeing him becoming able to demonstrate love, as the past couple of weeks with him haven’t been the easiest. Between fussy periods and noisy nights (he chatters, grunts, and snores for hours and is SO LOUD) the days can get very long. It’s worse because we’re in the middle of an international move and the amount of paperwork and other stuff that I’ve had to do for this is a full time job on its own. For more days than I like my choice is to nap OR do things that require concentration (or two hands). The big stressful stuff is getting taken care of, however, which means:

- we have a place to live (just north of Mitte in Berlin)

- passport & citizenship applications are almost finalised. The paperwork for Walter’s documents has been a nightmare. Literally, it has haunted me for months. He can’t get a full passport because he doesn’t have proof that he’s a Canadian. We apply for proof and it takes 12 months, so in the meantime they issue him a limited validity passport which they’ll only issue if we have proof (ie a flight ticket) that we need to travel. I can’t get a flight until we have a place to live in another country. So the timelines have been very, very tight. On top of it all, the passport application itself has had various annoyances for completion. So it’s not exactly been fun. Plus I hate filling in forms and get really anal-retentive about them and then worry.

- flights etc are ready to be booked! Meaning that I’ve found the flight I want, I just need some dozy-Walter time in which to book them

That’s enough for now. I’ll cover Walter’s baptism in a separate post. Walter’s 1-month day was so busy that I didn’t have a chance to photograph him, but he has loads of pictures from his Baptism the day before!

And here he is looking adorable, a week ago today (we were heading out for a walk and a pint!):