Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

13 Things I Did While We Were Away!


Thursday 13

  1. Slept on a train going from Paris to Rome.
  2. Took water taxis and buses through Venice.
  3. Made a snowman and snow angels in Geneva.
  4. Saw the Mona Lisa.
  5. Went up the Eiffel Tower when it was -4!
  6. Met my brand-new baby niece when we got back to England.
  7. Learnt to use a satnav and drove on lots of twisty turny lanes through the English countryside then discovered they were actually A roads.
  8. Explored the still functional Roman bath at Bath.
  9. Stayed in the attic of a Victorian house in Bath.
  10. Went to Sherwood Forest and the man-made caves under Nottingham.
  11. Had family photos done in mediaeval costumes.
  12. Helped my girls do a pretend excavation at an archaeological museum.
  13. Ate chicken and leek suet pudding at a little pub in Oxford.  In fact we had many meals in great little pubs and I discovered a really nice alcoholic ginger beer in York!

Now aren’t you jealous?

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Wordless Wednesday – Counting Down!

More Wordless Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Mom and Wordless Wednesday

Be Careful What You Wish For …

I have just got back from a few days away and we had a fabulous time.  Zoos, museums, the waterfront, restaurants, everything was great and very kid friendly. Except one little thing that really made me think.

To set the scene I have two girls, 4 and 18 months, both fully toilet trained during the day.  When out and about the little one needs help to get her pants down and get up on the toilet, but that’s it.  Generally when we’re out we all go to the toilet together, I mean what else are you going to do with them?  So while we can all fit in a normal cubicle we try to go for disabled toilets whenever there isn’t a parenting room.

I was originally a bit conflicted about this.  They’re disabled toilets, I felt guilty about using them when we’re all able.  But on the other hand I’ve never yet seen a person with a disability going to them, much less found someone waiting when we get out.  Not that I sit there and watch who’s going in or out of the toilets.  But we don’t seem to be inconveniencing anyone so we might as well use them.

One of the toilets we visited on this trip (and we visited a LOT!) was shared use – for parents and people with disabilities.  And it makes a lot of sense, small children and parents have a lot of the same needs.  The toilets are often lower, which makes it easier for littlies to get on them, they usually have handholds that very little ones can use to stabilise themselves, there’s room to manoeuvre a pram as well as a wheelchair and the sinks generally have easily accessible taps little kids can work.  In addition, this one had one of the fold-up change stations on the wall.

It also had a sign, asking

“Parents please limit use to avoid impacting disabled users.”

Hang on a minute.

When I’m illicitly using the disabled facitilities as it were I feel a bit off.  If there was a disabled person around I would definitely wait until after them.  But this is a dual use facility.  It has a change table in there and says so right on the door.  So why is one set of users less important that the other?  Why does one set of users have to ‘avoid impacting’ the other?  Flip it around – would it be reasonable to ask disabled people to be quick to avoid impacting on parents?

OK, it takes longer than normal to change a baby.  And I’m sure the girls and I take ages, although not as long as 3 separate people – we have the production line down pat.  But do you really think parents are hanging around in there for fun?  Dawdling away in the public toilets?  They’re such a fun place to hang out, after all.

And how exactly are we supposed to limit use?  Wait until the nappy is really, really full?  Leave them in the pooey nappy until we get home?  Maybe change them kneeling on the ground in the wind and rain outside?  I admit my non-verbal baby has lots of false positives – she often gives me the toilet signal and then doesn’t produce (although that doesn’t seem to happen at home for some reason).  So should I ignore her and take the chance that this time it was real so make her poo her pants?

Would you ask disabled adults to sit in their own urine and faeces so they don’t impact on others?

No.  That is unreasonable.  It is disrespectful and demeaning.  Yet that is precisely what is being asked of children.  Children are not even being treated as second-class citizens, they are being denied (or limiting) basic human rights of hygiene.

Our society does not appear to want children.  It would be interesting to see what happened if that wish came true.

Wordless Wednesday – Look Mummy! A goat!

Goat (and a couple of icons)

This page is linked at 5 Minutes for Mom and Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday – Blended Family

Blended Family

Early Morning Trains

I’ve started back at work, and everything is going swimmingly. My two year old is loving spending time with Grandma or Daddy on different days, and he loves catching trains with me in the morning.

I could do without the early starts in some ways – I’m not a morning person, never really have been. But the early mornings really do have their compensations.

The walk to the train takes about twenty minutes with my son. It takes me about ten minutes on my own. I get a little impatient with his frequent stops to look at things or even just to swap sides and hands. Even so, I love our conversations.

“Dog! Woof woof!”

“Yes, that is the house where the dog lives. What colour is it?”

“Black!”

“Lelloo-cotter!”

“That’s right! We saw a helicopter in the sky last week when we were standing at this corner.” (We did, too – we saw a helicopter one morning, and he reminded me of it when we got to that corner the following week).

“Lovely tree! Lovely flower! Pretty!”

As we near the train station, he starts to say, “Train, more train. Train coming!” He really likes trains, and looks forward to train rides. As we wander down on to the platform, often he’ll ask, “Play ‘tendoo?” He likes watching me play my Nintendo DS, and it can be a useful way to keep him sitting safely on the platform with me.

Once we’re on the train, he gives a running commentary on the doors opening and closing, and talks about changing trains when we get to the city. “Catch train, another train!” Other passengers smile indulgently as he steps on and off the train, which usually involves a very big step up or down over the gap.

When we get to the city station, we have a fifteen minute wait for our connecting train. Sometimes we go via the coffee stand, depending on how badly I need a coffee by then, and we take the stairs up to the platform. There are many stairs, and my two year old tackles them with ease. There’s a small platform halfway up the stairs, and when we get to this point he often looks up and says, “Another stair!” which results in more indulgent smiles from early morning commuters.

It’s very rare that I see another small child on the trains at that time of the morning. I wonder why that is?

We go up to the far end of the platform to wait, so we can be in the front carriage to meet Grandma at her station. And this is the part of the morning I like best.

We sit together on the platform, and my son eats a sandwich for breakfast. There usually are very few people at that end of the platform, so we sit together and cuddle up, watching trains and talking about colours and numbers; pointing at birds (usually pigeons and sparrows, though sometimes he says they’re seagulls) and chatting about the next part of our train ride.

However flustered I’ve been, rushing through the cold morning to get us both dressed and to the station on time, this part of our morning is always pretty easy. Some days, my husband looks after our son so I don’t have to hustle him on the train… and on those mornings, it feels lonely sitting at that city station on my own. I watch the trains and birds and think about how alien it feels that my son isn’t with me; which is a bit odd because we’ve only been making this trip together for about a month so far.

Once we get on the train again, I make sure we’re near a window so he can stand up and look at the river as we cross it. At that time of the morning there’s usually a City Cat sailing under the railway bridge, which he calls a ‘silly cat’.

We pull up at Grandma’s station, and I say goodbye as he gets off the train into Grandma’s arms. The last time we did that, he didn’t cry or protest at all – just smiled and waved goodbye to me as the train pulled away again. Before now, he’s wailed momentarily, though I know he’s smiling again moments after my train pulls away (Grandma texts me to let me know). Even knowing that it’s just something toddlers do, and that it’s just his way of letting me know he likes it when I stay, and that he’s laughing and happy within moments, it is a bit hard seeing your child’s teary face as you leave. So I was excited to see him smiling and waving at me the last time I dropped him off, and chattering animatedly to Grandma.

I have work tomorrow. I am not looking forward at all to getting up before 5am. I am looking forward to our train trip, though. I have a feeling these mornings will be precious memories some time all too soon.

‘Ya can’t change film with a kid on your back…’

Roger Miller was right… Nor can you change a tyre with said child on back…

As part of a new job I have to do 4X4 training (even though I have been working out bush for the past year and practically grew up in the back of a car… damned gypsy parents).  Usually I take my daughter with me to work but this week she has been in the care of a fantastic stay at home mum who has child care certificates, family day care experience, foster caring experience and two children of her own.  Obviously this woman is worth her weight in gold to the average working mum.

My job requires me to travel out to remote locations and getting to this point (a few weeks into the job) has been a roller coaster of will I/won’t I feelings.  Firstly there was the old feelings of neglect.  Am I doing what is best for my girl?    Then the feelings of self doubt.  You know, the ones that seem to be ingrained into us against our will by some chromosome more often linked with X’s rather than Y’s.  Then the feelings of personal gain –  money, experience, doing what I love, open roads, sing along opportunities in the car – all the really important things (obviously this feeling was the winner … I can’t resist an option that has a sing along).

But now I have landed and am trying to make it work.  I have days where I appear at the office with a screaming child and interestingly I get more done in two hours than I usually would in a day without the beautiful little smudgekin who has the voice of a feral cat fighting a broken violin.  I worry about where I might be next week.  I worry about the conditions that I might be facing.  I worry about whether or not there will be a suitable spot to park a developmentally delayed child with special needs.  Will I be adding to the chaos or creating a positive learning experience based on catering to young learners with varied needs?

And then I remember …  History repeats itself doesn’t it?  Isn’t this the story of my life so far?  Wasn’t that me in the back of the car all of those years ago?  Isn’t that where the sing along was invented?   So all I have to do now is ponder one thing – Was my upbringing good enough for my daughter?  I think the answer is inevitably yes.  Yes to covering the land.  Yes to meeting new people.  Yes to taking in different cultures and ideas.  Yes to bringing about positive change and learning.  Yes to sharing life on the edge, in the middle, and everywhere in between with your children!  It’s not as if you are letting the tiger in your car or  rollerskating in a buffalo herd.

So as Roger reckons ; ‘Knuckle down buckle down do it do it do it’ because  ‘you can be happy if you’ve a mind to‘ …  and who said you can’t just change the film when the kid is sleeping?  Or get a digital camera?

Things I’ve learnt while being away.

We’ve just been away for 3 weeks.  A great holiday, all our relatives live in Perth so the girls get a huge amount of attention from everyone and get to catch up and know everyone.  It’s wonderful, but no matter how nice everyone is it’s hard to live in someone else’s house for that long.  I’m glad to be back to my own washing machine, my own kitchen and the girls’ own beds and toys!

Rather than a travelogue and a bit in the spirit of cAt’s earlier post, here are some of the tips and tricks and ‘Things I’ve Learnt While Being Away.”

  • If you are so unfortunate as to have an electric hot water system, turn it off before you leave.  And for the week before you go eat leftovers and clear the fridge!
  •  

  • If you have a long drive, put any nappy-wearers into a night nappy.  It’s not nice to leave them in it for so long, but it’s less nice to wake them up and change them – drive as much as you can while they’re asleep!

 

  • A baby carrier of some sort is brilliant to get them on and off planes, I have one that carries on the front and has plastic buckles so it goes through security and is easy to get on and off in the 2 square feet of space you get in an airplane seat.

 

  • Our eldest must eat every two hours or you will suffer the consequences, with the emphasis on suffer.  Those blood sugar levels crash and it isn’t pretty.  Even if it’s only a little bit, she has to have something.  Breadsticks or Grissini are great to keep in the car as emergency food, they don’t go off or stale.  We used to have sultanas, but unfortunately our youngest reacts badly.

 

  •  Act like a tourist.  We grew up in Perth and know it pretty well, but our kids don’t.  Don’t get into the rut of just doing normal things and seeing family, go to the zoo, the museum, the national parks, the galleries.  While you’re there, use your baby carrier from the plane – we went to one attraction that had about 15 sets of stairs, and I’ve never had so many men carrying prams looking at me longingly.

 

  • Plan on lots of long car drives.  It may just be our terrible sleepers, but between jet lag, excitement and relatives who don’t allow for little children there will be lots of late nights.  And a 14 month old can go all day without a nap if she’s really determined not to miss out, but then see the point about suffering the consequences.  So we try to plan a drive around her nap time, and if she falls asleep we just keep driving.

 

  • If you’re going out in the afternoon/evening, take their PJs.  It’s much easier to change them into jammies for the drive home then pop them straight into bed, than get home late and try to change them then.

 

  • If you’re a clothie, have a strict washing routine and stick to it!  Don’t ever, ever think “Oh, there’re plenty of nappies there, I can wash them tomorrow morning.”  Even if you are washing at 11pm, get them done!!!! On that point, we use cloth exclusively even while travelling in winter, I wash every second day and transport all the dirty nappies from the travel.  She’s in them for a bit longer than I like, but it’s certainly do-able.

 

  • Finally, when you get home turn the hot water system on straight away!  And if you live in a hard water area like we do, spray the shower rose with CLR to avoid the needles of water from the calcium buildup while you’ve been away.  (Remember to run it before jumping under – you don’t want to shower in CLR!)

So today we’re unpacking, washing and rearranging, trying to get set for another dose of reality.

Toys from my childhood

I’m currently away, with my family in a city. We do this trip regularly so our kids can see all their relatives, so we’re quite seasoned travellers. We’re staying with my parents, and I’ve just spent a morning pulling out toys that I used to play with as a kid. My parents carefully put them away and bring them out for their grandkids – can you imagine doing that with some of today’s toys? Anyway, here is my little wander down memory lane.

The old Tupperware shape sorter. For people who didn’t have one of these growing up, it’s a ball with one red side, one blue side and lots of different shaped holes. There are yellow blocks to post through the holes, and they open out to let all the blocks out. My Mum’s has lost the spring in the middle and lost two shapes, which is not bad for 30 years of use. We have one exactly the same at home, so my youngest fell on it with glee and has been posting shapes.

Wooden blocks. We’ve looked for these and found them quite hard to find, and the ones we have seem to be a lot lighter. These are the good old fashioned blocks with some weight behind them, they build walls and bridges and don’t fall over.

A wooden abacus. My eldest happily played with it, telling me that she uses a big one at the park. I remember playing with it myself, I never realised what it was but thought it was some sort of musical instrument, because you can make all sorts of cool noises with the wooden beads.

Books.  Ah yes, the box set of Beatrix Potter. In beautiful condition and with all the lovely paintings. These stories are now over a hundred years old and are of such a different time and place. When I read them to my eldest I often wonder what she can get from them, the animals and way of life are so foreign to her. But she loves them. I suppose they are a fantasy for her, with little talking rabbits and foxes and squirrels collecting nuts. They’re actually a great example of something I remember from when she was little. An early childhood educator was talking about reading and its importance and said – a child who reads experience so much more than one who doesn’t. A reading child is a city child who has visited a farm, an inland child who has been to the beach, an Australian child who has explored the jungle. So through my parents’ carefully kept books my 21st century digital child knows about herb gardens and squirrels and owls and hand washing and open fires.

I hope I can keep things for my grandchildren to share.

Up in the air, I fly…

Oh my, oh my. It’s good to be home. I’ve just spent most of a week in an unfamiliar city with a not-quite-two year old.

I’ve learned a few things over the course of six days. The first is that despite airline assurances that a child under two is an ‘infant’ and should travel on a parent’s or caregiver’s lap, a child who is almost two is most definitely a toddler and far too big to share a single seat with comfortably.

Actually, to be fair, I don’t think many single people can sit in a single airline seat comfortably – at least not in cattle class, which is the way I travel. But travelling with a small child on your lap presents some interesting challenges.

Boarding presented our first conundrum. If you are travelling with children, you have the option of boarding before everyone else. This is a great idea, because wrangling small children while trying to stow away carry on luggage does require the patience of Job and the dexterity of Mandrake the Magician. However, there’s a catch.

It’s difficult enough to get into or out of a seat on an airplane with an infant, but basically impossible if there are seats between you and the aisle. If you want access to the toilet or change table, you need an aisle seat. Murphy’s Law dictates that if you are stuck in a window seat, your child will poop shortly after takeoff, whereupon you get to decide what will irritate your fellow passengers more: crawling over them with a wriggling toddler to get to the change table and back again, or sitting quiet while their nostils are assailed by an unpleasant olfactory crescendo. I don’t know about you, but as much as I like to adopt a devil-may-care attitude to other people’s dirty looks, either option leaves me quailing.

So you select an aisle seat, of course. Which makes sense; except that by getting on the plane first, you ensure that at least one and probably two people are going to have to squeeze past you to get to their window or middle seats; and that of course is impossible with the added mass of a toddler strapped to your lap. So you have to vacate your seat with a protesting child at least once and possibly twice before you finally get to sit in relative peace and wait for takeoff. Naturally, unfastening your seatbelt two or three times is enough for your toddler to work out how to take his belt off himself, ensuring fun and games for the rest of the trip.

When the plane begins its ascent, the adults on the plane begin to chew and swallow and make whatever other jaw movements they need to make to even out the pressure in their ears. Babies and toddlers need a bit of help, and airlines recommend breastfeeding or bottle feeding infants through takeoff and landing for this reason. It’s a fabulous idea, and works brilliantly, but the practicalities can leave a little to be desired.

Breastfeeding a toddler who’s attached to me at the lap belt in a space the size of a small sardine tin is an acrobatic feat I don’t ever really want to repeat. My toddler just doesn’t fit in my lap any more: certainly not cross-ways, anyway. Eventually we worked something out where he just about folded in half and his legs stuck out into the aisle (see? another reason to grab an aisle seat), and concertina-ed thusly we got through takeoff.

The airline I flew on has a feature which, at first glance, seems tailor made for parents trying to keep small children amused in a fixed position – cable television on screens in the back of the seats in front. However, my toddler found his face virtually pressed against the screen, and I battled to keep his headphones anywhere near his ears. I did think ahead and brought along a cheap pair of old school headphones – the kind that have a band going over the head, rather than the ‘bud’ earphones the airline hands out. Still, the cord kept tangling in our seatbelts or being knocked out of the socket by flailing toddler arms and legs.

Another interesting feature of flying with a toddler strapped into your lap is that you cannot lower the tray. If you ever need a tray to rest food and drink on, it’s when you’re sharing them with a toddler. Heck, it would be handy just for resting books on, or playing with toys, or colouring in. I had the marvellous idea of bringing a sticker book with me, but was foiled by the fact that I couldn’t actually open the book in the space I had (note to self: nothing bigger than A5 is at all useful).

On the plus side, it turns out that a not-quite-two year old can (mostly) sit (mostly) happily for a two hour flight. He found the big glass windows in the terminal excellent for watching aircraft and vehicles going back and forth. Most other passengers don’t mind the odd rendition of “Open, Shut Them”, “Up In The Air I Fly”, or even “Old MacDonald’s Farm” when things get tough. And occasionally you’ll find a nice person sitting next to you who offers to share their tray.

Mostly, I’m quite proud of myself. It’s a great relief to be home, but I’ve learned that I can travel accompanied only by a toddler. It will be different next time: in a few weeks he turns two, and that will mean he’ll need his own seat (which will mean paying a full fare for him). I’m confident now though that I can do it. Travelling with a toddler in tow was terrifying, at least before I did it. Now, I think it’s challenging, but not unduly so.

Now I’m just deciding where I’ll take him next, and when.