Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

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.

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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!
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  • 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.

The Invisible Parent

A bit of a good news story this week, or at least upbeat.

I know a lot of us Mums just seem to think differently to Dads.  Even if two of you are there, the responsibility seems to fall on Mum.  She packs the change bag for family outings, she remembers how long it is since everyone has eaten, she notices and changes the dirty nappy.  So get a group of Mums together and you’ll hear it – moan bonding.  (But you know we love you really, Coran.) 

I first heard of moan bonding from an educational guru talking about teachers and we laughed, because it’s so true.  Partners hate socialising with a group of teachers because we sit there and talk about our kids and our classes and what the little *ahem* so and sos did to us today.  A problem shared may not be halved but it certainly encourages solidarity.  And when I stopped teaching and started socialising with mothers there it was – moan bonding.  Except you can’t really moan about your children, because everyone knows that anything bad about your children is all your fault.  So we moan about our partners.

I try to be very good during bonding sessions, because I have to say I’m blessed with a wonderful husband.  He cooks most nights and does almost all the cleaning; he does all the bills and works very hard so I can stay at home.  So I’m on a pretty good wicket and I’m aware of it.  But still.  There are those little things that drive you mad, because how can he not see them?!  (I’m sure I drive him mad too, but this is my blog.)

His main problem is that he’s too responsible (see, that’s positive isn’t it?).  He’s the sort of person who’ll decide to do an extra set of training during his leave, or be involved with other people in developing a new system.  Which is wonderful, but we live in the middle of nowhere so it often requires travelling.  And then I’m home by myself with the girls. 

And we really, really miss him.

He was away last week and every morning I had to go through it with our eldest. 

“Where’s Daddy?”

“When is he coming back?”

“Will he be back tonight?” 

“When he comes back I’m telling him he’s not allowed to go away again.”  Awwwww.

As for the little one, her face almost split when she heard his voice on the phone.  Skype is a wonderful tool, I recommend it to anyone who has anyone away from them – it’s basically videophone and it’s free!

Since he’s been back they’ve been beside themselves trying to spend time with him, because he’s a great parent.  Maybe he leaves the nappy on longer than I would, but he also plays with them and gets them ready for bed.

So this post is a tribute to the Invisible Parents.  The fathers (and possibly grandparents, aunties and friends) who are travelling this scary and wonderful journey called parenting with us, and who make our lives so much richer in so many ways we don’t notice until they’re not there.

And then we really, really miss them.