Saturday, 30 January 2010

Mind the (age) gap.

I recently posted about my want (need?) for another baby, and lots of kind people said lots of nice things, and in particular several (Chic Mama, Expat mum, Potty Mummy) said that I wasn't too old, and that I had plenty of time, and should just leave it a little while until I'm out of the baby thing, and see if then I really want another.

But the thing is although I know I'm not too old (despite recent purchase of anti-aging cream - aargh!), I don't feel as though I do have the time. In fact, I feel as though if I'm not pregnant in the next nine months, or year at the outside, I'll have missed the boat, and it'll be too late.

Why? I'm not nearing the menopause, there's no biological, or other, clock ticking away, surely I've got plenty of time....? Well I have, but I've also decided that I want this baby, if there is to be a baby, before A&S turn 2 1/2.   Which means if I'm going to get pregnant, I really need to do so in the next year.

Is this ridiculous?  Certainly A&S actually arrived sooner than we had intended (got pregnant quicker than we expected and then they were born at 36 weeks (this is standard for identical twins at our local hospital)), so there are just over 19 months between L and S, and just over a minute between S and A.  I suppose if I'd been able to pick and choose I'd have had a gap of about two and a bit years between each of my children.  Why? I think probably because that's what there is between me and my siblings, so it's what I know. 

So I have this feeling, or maybe a fear, that if I let there be a bigger gap than that between them, particularly in view of the fact that L and the babies are so close in age, that the hypothetical baby will be a tail end charlie, a little loner, tagging along at the bottom of the family, always struggling to keep up.  Or that I will find that having got all three of my girls to a stage where they are a bit more independent and I can occasionally read the paper or have a cup of tea in peace, I will resent a baby for being needy. 

So I'm asking: what is the "right" age gap?  Is there such a thing? And if there is a big gap in your family, how does it work?  And how was it going back to tiny babies and nappies after a big break?  Are my worries totally unfounded, or is there a grain of truth in my fears?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Millinery - week 2 (and the Book at Blogtime)

 Week two of my millinery course yesterday and something to show for it!  Here is my hat...

It is a work in progress, as you can probably see, but that is, or will be, the crown.   It's blocked onto a hat block and the pins and elastic band are to hold it all in place so it takes the shape of the hat-to-be. It was so much fun doing it, and I'm really excited about next week already.


Oh, and I finished The Host.  It took me two days, snatched into any spare second I had.  Which probably means I enjoyed it.  This one was borrowed from my friend E, who also lent me all the Twilight books.

I'd like to say that I found this trite, or unintellectual, or predictable or whatever one is supposed to say about books that are not supposed to have any "literary merit", but I devoured this rather as Ms Meyer's more famous hero would a passing mountain lion.  Clearly the plot is nonsense, and afterwards it all felt rather silly, but somehow, when you're reading it that doesn't matter.  I really cared about the characters and I totally bought into the whole world she created.   And yes, I cried.

That said, I've now moved on to "the best antidote to [Ms Meyer's] toxic guff" I could find (or be recommended). Lucy Mangan suggested Grow up Cupid by June Oldham in her Guardian column a couple of months ago, and L bought it for me for Christmas (it's out of print and I'd been hunting for it (in a rather desultory fashion) ever since).  And although I enjoyed Twilight too (although not the fourth one which is utter drivel) I'm find I'm now rather looking forward to a bit of healthy British cynicism...

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Five reasons why I shouldn't have another baby...

... and one reason why I should.

I really, really want another baby.  I just feel like I'm supposed to have another baby. I'm at that stage where everywhere I look there are pregnant women and I'm jealous.  So jealous.  I love being pregnant.  I love breast-feeding (in a totally non-weird way, clearly).  I can't bear the idea that I'll never do/be either again.  I think, although we were never definite on it, that if A&S hadn't come along at the same time, we'd probably have tried for a third, and I feel cheated of that hypothetical third pregnancy.

But it's a ludicrous idea. It's totally insane.  It makes no logical sense at all. 

I have three beautiful, gorgeous, lovely, incredibly hard work children already.  Why on earth would I want another one?  Another baby is just going back to all the bits I don't like: the sleepless nights, the poo everywhere, the endless screaming that you just can't stop, the baby that you know you should love but that just lies there and doesn't do anything for six months.  I hate all those bits, and at times I don't cope very well with them.  Why am I even contemplating doing them again?

And anyway why push my luck?  My girls are amazing.  They are intelligent, beautiful, sparky, funny, creative individuals.  We are so lucky, and so grateful for that luck.  I intend no disrespect to anyone who has a child with special needs, and I know that they are often just as loving and rewarding as any other child, but were we to have one, that child's needs would demand more of our time than the other three, and if those needs were severe, or severely demanding, that just isn't fair on the  children I have already.  I'm not an old mother by today's standards:  I was 30 when I had L and I've just turned 33,  but still every year adds to the risks.  Why run them? 

And what about the other risk...?  I want four children.  But do I want four children more than I don't want five?!  There are three risk factors for twins: i) getting older; ii) having twins already; iii) having twins in the family, and I tick all the boxes.  Twins again would not be funny, however much I love the incredible pair I have already, and triplets would be worse.

And then there's the environment.  Four children? Four more consumers of the planet's already limited resources? Another however many hundreds of disposable nappies sent to landfill? That's just wrong.  And what about the practicalities? What sort of car do you get for four children (probably all under four)? What pushchair? How do you ever leave the house?  How do you get a house big enough in the first place?

But I want one.  I know that logically I shouldn't but I do.  And I don't know how to square those two things.  B is happy as we are, but will go along with what I want (although when we've had a really bad day with the girls, he's more adamantly anti).  I'm just frightened of accidentally doing nothing until it's too late and then spending the rest of my life mourning, deep in my subconscious, for the baby I never had.   Or of being "punished" for my greed in wanting something I don't need by having two babies, or a baby with disabilities, or a baby who becomes ill, or crashes his or her car at the age of 25 or, or, or...

I realise I have to make a decision and stick with it.  But how?

Picture from, but presumably copyright whoever made the film.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Book at blogtime

Books.  Aaah! Books!

Books are, or were, pre-children, my drug.

I love, love, love books.

I could, pretty much, read before I could walk.  Seriously.  I sound like some kind of freaky genius, and honestly I got normal later, but my mum just taught me to read very early (apparently I asked her to draw a picture and given that she too was severely artistically challenged, she wrote out the family's names for me, and the rest is history.  I was, apparently 18 months).  Either way, it's on medical record that I was reading fluently by 2.

This is not without its downside. All my mum's friends hated me. Well you would, wouldn't you? There's your lovely baby saying "hello-copter" or "rhinausages" (both L-isms) and there's smug irritating 2-year-old Plan B reading the front page of the Times.  Not understanding it clearly, but that's beside the point.

Either way, books became my thing; my playmate, my refuge, my best friend.  We lived in a wonderful Swallows and Amazons type lakey, tree-ey, wood-ey area.  Did I play Swallows and Amazons? Or Children of the New Forest? Or Swiss Family Robinson? Did I b0llocks! I was far too busy sitting inside reading them.

And now, as an adult, it means I'm totally undiscriminating about what I read. I just have to be reading something.  Pre-children I couldn't leave the house without a book, in case of a spare two minutes standing in the queue for the post office.  Since children, however, reading's not somehow quite the same.  My previous diet of two or three books a week is down to two or three a month, and that's if I'm lucky...

Which has got me to thinking.  If I can't read as much, I must read better.  I used to be able to read the same book over and over again because I'd have read it so fast the first time I wouldn't actually remember it later, in the same way I can wolf down a tub of  Ben and Jerry's without actually tasting it.  But that's no good any more, I need to savour my reading, to remember it, to appreciate those moments of magic when I'm absorbed into someone else's imagination.

So I'm going to record them.  As from now, when I finish a book, I'm going to write it down.  And although I'm certainly no literary critic, I'm going to jot down what I thought too.  If only so I can remember.

So:  book number 1 of 2010.  The Storyteller, or the Hakawati, by Rabih Alameddine.  Bought on a 3 for 2 deal in Foyles because it was fat and I buy books by weight not content.  And, well, I'm  not sure really.  It's a story of stories, an Arabian nights; if Scheherezade were sitting by a hospital bed, wearing scrubs and waiting for her father to die.  Three stories, one modern, one historical (ish), one fantastical, all intermeshed and interspersed with yet more stories.  One of those books which doesn't have a plot because so much happens.  I enjoyed it, but I'm not entirely sure why.  And it made me want to visit Lebanon.

Next:  from the sublime (ish) to the ridiculous (definitely) The Host by Stephenie Meyer, famous for Twilight... watch this space.  Oh, and let me have recommendations...

Picture credits: The Bookworm, by Carl Spitzweg, found at   Oh, and (but of course). Thank you.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Millinery - week 1

The good news? The course didn't have to be cancelled!

And it was week 1 last night.  I am now officially on a millinery course, and over the next nine weeks I will be making one felt hat and one straw hat.  So far, I've made a buckram hat band the same size as my head. I'd post a photo but I didn't take one, and you'd be pretty underwhelmed given that it looks like a circle of white card.

But I will blog with updates on my hats as they take shape.  And if anyone sees any awesome pictures of hats and headpieces which might inspire me, please do post them on here!

And the best bit?  I absolutely adored it.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Songs and Stories (and Haiti)

Firstly, thanks to Brit in Bosnia for tagging me for this one. I love your story and you've certainly got me thinking...

The thing is, I'm not one of those people who has a soundtrack to my life.  Words are more my thing; B does the music. I do the words.  Ironic really that we met singing, but it's true to say that I can only remember a tune if I remember the words first.  No words, no tune.  When B and I were first going out he gave me some cds of music that he loved, among them Beethoven Violin Concerto and Rachmaninov Second Symphony.  Despite coming from a classical, rather than pop-loving, family, I'd never heard either of them before.

Apart from the time I played them in a concert series in Cambridge and Paris about four years previously.  A fact I only remembered when B found the concert programme a month or so after he gave me the cds. Oops.

So you'll see, I don't have a soundtrack to my life.  I don't associate particular songs or pieces of music with particular events.  So thinking about this meme has really got me racking my brains.

Should it be the first song I remember hearing on the radio - Super Trouper.  As I say, my parents are classical music people (why did they think you had to be one or the other? I'm certainly not) and we just didn't have pop music at home.  So I heard this in someone else's car on the school run.  Our dog at the time was called Trooper.  Aged 7 that was all it took to be my favourite song.  The dog must have died about 20 years ago, but Abba still reminds me.

Or perhaps the first album I bought.  Kylie. Before she was cool.  Or maybe not. Or Take on me, which is just an awesome song and reminds me of my brother and the time I went to see him sing at a concert in Egham and got on a train to Esher instead.  It turns out they're not the same place.

Or the songs that plot my relationship with B.  We met in 2002.  The first piece of music we sang together as a couple was Bach's St John Passion.  We had the chorale, In Meines Herzens Grunde, at our wedding.  But that was years into the future. In 2002 we went out for about six months and I fell irrevocably in love, before he had a moment of madness and dumped me. Fool.  Have forgiven him now, just, but at the time it felt like my life was over.  I remember days of weeping; the only time in my life I genuinely couldn't eat.  It was the Summer of 2003 and anyone reading this will be thinking "Oh yes, that was really hot".  Was it?  I don't remember.  There is a blank in my memory of about five months.  The only thing I do remember is this song.  B had bought the album just before we split up, and I played this obsessively; sitting in the dark by the stereo. Me and Nina, crying.  Love me or leave me and let me be lonely.  I'd rather be lonely than happy with somebody else.  I meant it.

Fortunately I didn't have to. He came to his senses, did the necessary grovelling and we got back together.  During the interregnum I'd bought my own flat and B came and helped me warm it.  I remember a long night of sex, drugs (if alcohol counts) and renaissance polyphony...Oh, and the Proclaimers.

Reader, I married him.  And the songs that go with the stories now are mostly to do with my girls.  Build me up Buttercup, because it's a happy song and I can't not smile when I hear it.  And because Buttercup's a happy name that we gave to our firstborn.  Yes, she really is L K Buttercup C...

Or more baby-related songs:  A&S were born by elective (consultant enforced) c-section.  We were firmly told that we needed to bring in our own cd if we didn't want the girls to be born to Magic fm (could have been fine, could have been Celine Dion (not linking that one on a point of principle)).  The last two weeks of my pregnancy, while I fussed about whether the builders would be finished in time, B was composing the perfect playlist.  I wasn't sure whether to be pleased or scared when the anaesthetist got the giggles when our cd opened with Here Come the Girls...  They were actually born to (You make me feel like a) Natural Woman, but it's Here Come the Girls that I'll always associate with their arrival.

But maybe it should be the song, with no story, that for me sums up B and me, and our family and how I feel about it all.  And it's the Proclaimers.  B is Scottish and it's a legal requirement that you can't be born north of Berwick and not be a Proclaimers fan.    I'm not Scottish and before I met him I'd have gone "yeah, yeah, 500 hundred miles, whatever".  But the thing is after nearly five years of marriage and three children, the sleep deprivation has got to me and I've realised he's right.  They're good. Very good.  And if we got married again, I'd have this as our first dance...

That's it.  Over to you:

Potty Mummy (and/or Footballers Knees) - to give you something else to think about other than whether your stuff is all going to arrive in one piece (or not, if it's the last thing you feel like doing!)
I'm a Mommy get me out of here
And three bloggers who were new to me this week and whose writings I have very much enjoyed reading
Crystal Jigsaw
Naomi de la Torre
Notes to Self, plus two (and the need for Red Shoes)


It feels all wrong to be going from recounting the ease and comfort that is (and has been) my life (in which the most difficult thing I've done in the last few hours is to find all those links on YouTube) to talking about Haiti, but then that's precisely why we must talk about Haiti. The people there need us not to forget them.  You know why.  Please help, either through the Bloggers for Haiti justgiving page, or through the DEC.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Mothers and other irritants.

I've dithered about this post.  I don't think my mum reads my blog. She's certainly never mentioned it and she's not usually backwards in coming forwards, but I know my brother does, so it's possible.  And I'm not sure I'm ready to deal with all this face to face...

But anyway.  My mum.

I've read other people's posts about their parents and I realise that in the grand scheme of things I am very lucky with my mum. She's kind, loving, intelligent, generous (see Canada trip...), fantastic with my children and I think must have done a pretty good job with me and my siblings (she says modestly).

So why am I finding her so difficult at the moment?

I used to have this fantastic relationship with my mum but somehow since my girls were born it's changed.  On the outside you'd say I still have a great relationship with her.  I see her relatively often, we speak probably once a week or so, we get on well when we see each other, she helps out with the girls, we don't (generally) bicker or argue.  But I don't call her unprovoked,  just for a chat, the way B does with his mum.

And all that does is add to the guilt.  Because I've worked it out.  The reason I feel uncomfortable when I'm with my mum is because I feel guilty.  All the time.  And I have don't entirely know why.  I just get the impression that she thinks I am letting her down.

Some of this, at the moment, I know is related to my job and the dithers I'm having about it.  But what else is going on? B, the amateur psychologist, thinks that she must feel as though her role is being usurped by me.   She's been the mother and the mother figure all my life, and now I am.  So what does that make her?  This sort of relates back, in his opinion, to my job.  She's done a great job as a mother (she hasn't done paid work since I was born, and didn't do any work at all until after my younger brother went to school) and I'm the living proof of this - happy healthy family, great job, modern exemplar etc etc.  If I give up work and become "just" a mum, what does that do to her status as mother to this pinnacle of virtue?

And then some of it, I think, is because I do feel guilty.  I feel guilty because I get irritated. I get irritated when she implies, or seems to imply, that she knows my children better than I do. Or when she knows me better than I know myself.  Or when she complains about the way my house is arranged (although to be fair, I complain about the way she arranges her house, so that's totally hypocritical of me).  Or when she tries to solve problems with money.  Or when she puts herself second, again, and I just want to say "Stand up for yourself, mum. Do what you want to do when you want to do it", even when the person she's putting herself second to is, well, me.

And I feel guilty because I don't call her, and because I don't help enough with my dad (who's ill) and because I know she'd love me to pile all the girls in the car and drive up and see them once a month as so many of her friends' children do (and I don't because I'm lazy, and L is carsick and I know that when I get there I'll just feel guilty, so I don't, and the cycle continues), and because my brother's in Canada, and my sister's uncommunicative, and I'm talking about moving to Scotland and taking the girls with me and I suspect, in my heart of hearts that she feels abandoned, yet I'm still doing it...

I realise that a lot of this is because I've just spent 12 days in the company of my family for the first time in probably as many years, but I've talked to some of my friends about this, and it appears that I'm not alone. So what are we doing wrong? And how can we rescue it? And how, please, how can I stop my daughters needing to write the exact same post in thirty years time? Because that thought breaks my heart.

And Mummy, if you are reading this, I'm sorry.  Maybe we should have a chat.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Please may we have some snow now?

I realise that for most of the rest of the country, this is going to look wilfully perverse... but...

I really want some proper snow.  Everyone else has got it.  Why can't we?

Friday, 8 January 2010

Separated at 13 months

Big change in the lives of A and S.

They have been separated.

A few weeks ago the nursery asked me what we wanted to do when they turned one and got too grown up for the baby room (pause for a bit of weepy nostalgia at the thought that my babies are too grown up for anything).  They have two 1-2 rooms at our nursery and after (if I'm honest not very) much thought we've decided to split them up.  It's only for two days a week, and we both felt that this was the only way that the carers would ever really internalise them as two separate individuals with different abilities, likes and dislikes.

So, two days in, how was it for them?  Twins do, after all, have a special bond.


...I don't actually think they've noticed.  They were certainly much more delighted to see L and me than they were to see each other.

So much for that special bond.

But I also think, so far, it's going to go well. Certainly the carers have already started picking up on things which S does (loves posing for the camera) and A doesn't.  And that A does (can just about stand up - it's amazing what two days of peer pressure will do) and S doesn't (she tries bless her, but with less success).

And if the point of being a parent, whether of twins or not, is to bring up a well-rounded individual (or in my case three) then surely this is a good first step? 

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Good day for a media star (with a sting in the tail).

I have, today, made my debut in the national press!

I (and this blog) get a mention (albeit brief) in an article by Gaby Hinsliff (about whom you may remember I raved a couple of months back) about the age-old, same-old, yadda yadda, yawn, but somehow can't stop thinking about it question of balancing work and kids.

Which is funny because it (or at least my buying of the magazine - available at all good newsagents, and less good: given that I bought it from one of those funny little shops in the tube) came at the end of one of the rare days when I've lurched from exasperation to joy and ended up feeling as though I have actually got the balance right. 

This morning was, as is often the case, faintly horrendous; nothing dramatic: S has a cold and is miserable, L didn't want red tights, ice skates more appropriate than going-to-work-must-still-look-like-a-professional-woman shoes (although I was very grateful for my zimmer frame/pushchair), tube full of sweary people cross with the weather and taking it out on each other.  Same old, same old.

Work was fine: nice to see everyone after Christmas, glow of generosity at giving them all the (obligatory) maple syrup candies, stuff to do but not too urgent, actually knew the answer to a technical question when asked.  Just another day at the office.

But the thing is, I was out, I was free, I could banter with my boss without having to interrupt myself to wipe a nose, or break up a fight, or find a missing sheep (or child).  I could have a cup of tea.  I could wander (aka shuffle, remember those shoes) out at lunch time and peruse the sandwich shelves of three different emporia before settling on a slightly unsatisfactory wrap, rather than wolfing down the leftovers from three different plastic plates.  I could just be me. Not someone's mum.  Me.

I had to leave early to get the girls so that the nursery staff could get home, and when I got to the nursery all three of them were in splendid moods (A and S's first day in separate rooms - huge success all round), and we had a lovely time shuffling back along the road home, singing. Literally.  The residents of West London know me as the local loony...

And I know that what made me happy today, and what, by extension made me a nice person to be around at work, and a good, happy, relaxed mum rather than the crotchety, short-tempered, no I haven't got time mum that I can also be (and am, more often than not, if the truth be told) is those six hours I spent without them.

Which is why they're important.  And that's why I realise that if this two day a week thing doesn't work (you'll notice there wasn't much actual work in my day (don't think my boss reads this fortunately)) and if we do find the perfect house in Middle-of-Nowhere, I do still need that Plan B. 

Which is why it's a bit of a b*gger to come home to an email saying that the millinery course might have to be cancelled.

Picture copyright Red Magazine, clearly.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

How much is enough?

Tomorrow is the first day of the working week (snow permitting).

Well, at least it's the first day of my working week.

You see, as of tomorrow, I'm working, by the tolerance of my employer, a mere two days a week (Thursdays and Fridays) and while I thought it was what I wanted, I'm worried that it just isn't going to work.

From the happy halcyon days of Whistler I was thought "Whoopee! Only two days a week in the office! It's going to be great!", yet I woke up in a cold sweat on Monday night:"Oh help! I've got to fill three days with the little monsters this week, what on earth am I going to do with them!" and now, having had three very good days, jetlag notwithstanding, I'm praying for snow to shut the nursery so I don't have to go in...

Which is all, quite frankly, just me being typically dithery.

But I do honestly wonder if it really is going to be possible for me usefully to do my job in two days a week.

When we were away, we were sitting round the table and I was talking about something I had done at work before I had L.  My mum said "Oh, right, that was when you had a proper job".  That's as against, in case you'd forgotten, the exact same job I do now, only at a higher level and while simultaneously looking after three small children.  But I do wonder if maybe she was, sort of, right, and if there comes a point when actually you do need to devote a bit more of your time and your energy to your job than it seems I'm prepared to...

But then that way lies the jump I'm not yet ready to make, and until then, my employers are just going to have to take what they can get.  And I'm just going to have to hope they'll continue to think it's enough.

Oh Canada!

It was amazing!

I don't want to get all gushy, although it might make a nice change from my usual whinging, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to.  At least about Canada, Canadians and skiing...

First a week in Whistler.  I can't quite yet believe that we managed, with the three girls in tow, to have four full days skiing, but we did and it was amazing.  To someone used to skiing in a tiny wee village in France with about six lifts and ten runs, Whistler-Blackcomb was utterly beyond all of my expectations.  The width of the pistes, the efficiency of the lifts and staff, the friendliness of everyone, the vast number of ladies loos everywhere you stopped...  And to top it all off, I skied well! 

Having fairly quickly come to the conclusion that this was my holiday and that therefore however much B wanted to launch himself off sheer cliff faces, I wasn't in the business of scaring myself silly, I spent my four days flying down friendly wide slopes, arms outstretched, wind whistling over the top of my helmet*, huge grin on my face.  Can't be bettered.

And all this with free babysitting, cooking and cleaning....

Christmas itself was, well, sort of just another day on the slopes with a lot of presents for the girls and one each for the adults (we'd done a not-secret-at-all Santa which worked out really well).    

Then on to Vancouver Island to stay with my brother and his wife.  I don't imagine I'd ever have visited Vancouver Island were they not living there and I feel very lucky to have done so.  Where we were, on the very southern tip of the Island, is a temperate rainforest, and coming there from the snow was, almost literally, like being hit with a wall of green, an assault on the eyes that took several hours to get used to.  And yes, it rained.

The thing I found odd about Vancouver Island is how beautiful the scenery is against how utterly hideous much of the architecture is.  Admittedly many of the houses are built in what I presume is the local vernacular - clapboard style - which is (or can be) attractive, but most of the other buildings seem to be chanelling the low-rise strip mall look.  There may be some very sensible tsunami-surviving, or rain-repelling or otherwise practical reason for this but driving through it feels a bit like being in the title sequence of a film about the misery of American suburbia - as you pass yet another Lube Center (and, incidentally, can you really build a business on engine oil?).

But that is, perhaps, to complain unnecessarily.  We were very lucky to be there at all, and I'd definitely go back to both Whistler and Vancouver Island (although I admit the presence of the lovely S&T is the biggest draw there).  The best bit is that I think the girls had, in many ways, a better holiday than all the rest of us.  They had 7 adults giving them constant attention and presents too.  Coming back to home and just boring old Mummy has, I imagine, been a bit of a comedown.

The downside?  Well, not a downside as such, but 12 days with my family deserves a post all to its own...

*three years ago it would have been "wind in my hair" but three children later I've somehow become very aware of how much I need to stay alive.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Grammatically correct

It is half past eight.  L is two and a half.  She is also jet-lagged.  She should have been asleep hours ago, but I am forgiving her because of the jet-lag and ignoring the fact that she is actually having a rather noisy "picnic" in her bedroom.

But I couldn't ignore this:

"Dingle Sheep and I need a poo".

Proud? You bet.

Picture from  Thank you.

BA 0085 - a survivor's tale.

When I look back, it is with wonder that we survived at all.  Yet I also know that there were only a few moments when failure seemed inevitable and, that, wonder of wonders, we did in fact survive; marriage, family and (sort of) dignity intact. 

The bad:
A vomiting, copiously, orangely, and without warning, about six hours into the flight out.  Not good, although I can't fault the staff, who, despite the fact that they should have been enjoying an extra holiday courtesy of Unite instead of mopping up our puke, were gracious and helpful, and amazingly tolerant of the fact that we'd totally trashed their bassinet.
S screaming.  And then screaming.  And then screaming a little bit more. For a solid two hours on the way back.  For about ten minutes I was nails and stuck to my guns ("ride it out, she will go back to sleep eventually, if you get her out it'll just make things worse") and then the stewardess came and asked if everything was ok, the man next to us offered to see if he could calm her down and my sister glared very obviously at me and I gave in.  Mistake.
L refusing, in classic L fashion: body rigid, head back, lungs inflated, to put her seat belt on.  Every time.
And to top it off:
Two hours sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow on the way out because it was too cold to take off, only to discover, when we got there, that our bags were still, you guessed it, sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow...
But, as I say, generally, the good bits outnumbered the bad.  L was (seat belt aside) amazing. On the way out she sat and watched the tv for about an hour and a half before saying "I want to go to sleep now" and doing just that until I woke her up when we were due to land.  And on the way back just the same, apart from the fact that the sleeping was done on the floor rather than in her seat. Quite frankly, if I'd thought I would fit, I'd have joined her.  As for A and S, they were pretty good too. It was hardly A's fault she was sick, and otherwise she slept throughout, and as for S screaming, I guess that if someone had offered me two hours of screaming out of two eight-hour flights, I'd probably have taken it.  Whether the people around us would have done is, of course, a different question...

So after asking for hints and tips, in the end, none of them were necessary.  But for next time, I will know:

  • Take every single thing you can possibly think of to entertain them. Even if (like us) you never use any of it, you'll be glad you had it just in case.
  • Ignore the air hostesses except when absolutely necessary.  Apparently it's unsafe to let a child sleep on the floor of a plane because the oxygen masks won't reach that low down (the fact that you'd probably choose to pick your child up to put the oxygen mask on her rather than letting her suffocate seems to have escaped them).  I said "Oh right, thanks" and did nothing about it.
  • A whimper is better than a scream. If your child is whimpering, ignore her. If she's grumbling, ignore her. If she's yelping, ignore her. If she's really properly going for it, you might have to pick her up.  But until then, just hope. And don't make eye contact.  With child or fellow passengers.
  • Normal rules do not apply, especially over food.  L ate what she wanted and ignored the rest.  In her case this was yoghurt and chocolate biscuits.  I can't imagine that it did her any harm.
  • But the converse of that is that if babies are in a routine, stick to it as far as possible. We were lucky in that both our flights were evening (ish) so we just dragged out the routine so that A and S were having their bedtime milk as we took off. Cue no painful ears and they both fell asleep during take off, and in the case of one baby each flight, stayed that way until landing.
  • If all else fails. Drugs. In this case Calpol, but anything else that works would do...
  • And finally, sadly, don't think it's all over when the plane lands. You've still got the jetlag to come.