Dear H,

It has been a while since I’ve written you a letter online. One you’ll maybe never read. That’s okay, as these days all I have to do is type on the computer and you read every single word and ask me why I’m telling someone that – and you’re right, why am I?

You are doing me so proud, my little girl. So very very proud. Tonight we should have had football but I knew you weren’t happy, and to be honest, I quite fancied a week off too. But I knew you weren’t happy as your friends weren’t there any more.

I don’t like seeing you cry when you get overwhelmed by something. I know how capable you are of doing things and that you get there – but that you’re still a little girl and it takes a lot of courage to do things. I know it will come. When it was register time at Rainbows and you clammed up and cried, I felt so much for you. I know things will be okay.

But I have to push you that little bit, as this is life now – pushing you that little bit more beyond your comfort zone, but making sure you know I’m always here for you. Because I am. Even when I’m not actually there, I’m here. Because that’s the unwritten, unspoken rule. We just are.

Every morning I tell you I love you, and every evening I do the same. We cuddle, we’re happy and every day faces new challenges – be they angry ones, happy ones, silly ones, sad ones. Every day stays unpredictable and fun and I love being around you as you grow and learn and become even more aware of everything around you, especially now words are a part of everything.

You will still do your homework though. Oh yes, no getting out of that. You might think I’m a soft touch after a cuddle and being told how lovely I am, but the work still needs to be done. I’m going to make sure you don’t think of homework the same way I did – something I grew to hate doing. I want it to be fun and something we can talk about.

Last month a whole new world opened up for you when we went to Australia. You met your Great Nanna, your Nanna and Pop, plus many uncles, aunties and cousins you don’t remember. Seeing this world open up and how welcomed you were to the family (not that we expected anything else) has changed a lot of things for daddy and I. But we haven’t made any plans. But it has changed things.

You coped with the travelling both ways so amazingly – 19 hours there and 22 back – though let’s face it, Changi Airport in Singapore having a soft play area was probably the best thing ever (for you). Any fears I had about how you’d get on were gone quickly – you got on with it, and I think that sums you up so well. You do just get on with things when you’re comfortable with them – be that school, swimming, football – even Rainbows will get there.

You have a wonderful sense of humour and you are a delight to be around. Please don’t change too much. I know you won’t be my little girl forever, but you are right now and I want to bottle it up and keep some for the future when you’ll grow up, when you become my little heartbreaker. You make me laugh, cry, you keep me puzzled, amused, confused, happy and proud. A wonderful mixture of everything, and I love you so much.

love,

mummy x

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Plans!

I have a great plan from the List of Stuff which I think is do-able.

I finish work for the year around the 17th December, and H finishes on the 19th. This leaves the following week pretty free – I checked online and there are reasonably priced tickets available for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!!

Seeing as we’re not going to a pantomime this year we may as well make it special for H and do something. This is perfect – and I think she’ll love it. I wanted to see it, and had to turn down a ticket for the West End Premiere a few months ago which was annoying.

This also leaves open the chance of getting a cheap day return to York in January and taking H to the York Pantomime, something she absolutely HAS to experience. It has been several years since I’ve been, and I’m letting the home side down.

We’ve bought our tickets for Wembley to watch England Ladies play Germany in November, so that’s Wembley ticked off – I’m pleased with that one!

So that’s three down, however many others left to go….

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You Know Your Child is Back At School When….

Matalan Uniform

1. They’re horribly upset they didn’t get into the Recorder After School Club

2. But they then forget to tell you they’re one of the class Eco Warriors until they’re about to go to sleep, several hours later

3. They can’t tell you what they’ve done each day

4. Until they’re sat with a friend from another school and they’re comparing their days

5. They ask on a Tuesday “is it the weekend yet?” and their shoulders slump in defeat when they find out it isn’t.

6. They will ask you questions like “is it true that people dig up their pets when they bury them in the garden and they move house?” and you wonder what on EARTH they’ve learnt that day. (another child took in a cat skull)

7. You start getting invites to playdates and for tea again after a REALLY quiet summer (apart from going to Australia).

8. Your child doesn’t stop singing ‘Let It Go’ for most of the time wherever she is, but refuses to sign up for choir as she’s scared of singing.

9. While waiting with the other parents, you’re hopeful the classroom doors will open first for collecting your child, but yet again they’re last!

10. You’re already planning ahead for when the class toy comes home for the weekend, so you are doing the most boring things possible so we don’t all try to outdo each other. We’re going to out-boring each other.

11. Home Learning is fun! As is reading, more reading, Bug Club, more Bug Club, sleeping and eating chocolate.

12. They talk in a silly voice and you realise that ALL five year olds she hangs out with have the same silly voice, like it’s an unwritten law of being at school together.

13. You get a bazillion After School Club offers and they’re all on days you have activities, especially Monday. Also, you get more club offers in a week than in Reception for a whole year. Not that I’m complaining.

14. Your child’s uniform has suddenly got smaller. Much smaller. Like 2cm around the bottom of the trousers smaller.

15. The commute to work is full of other people’s children again and you can’t get a seat.

16. You start talking about The Golden Rules again.

17. Your diary suddenly gets full of dates, most of which you can’t actually get to.

18. You get a letter informing you of a meeting two working days later which again you can’t get to.

19. You vow not to get too excited every time your child goes up a book band, and within a week they do and you get too excited and plaster it all over Facebook.

20. At 2.10 you leave work, horribly excited to see your child again and spend a bit of time with them. That’s my favourite bit of all.

21. You realise it is only a year before you need to put in an application for Junior School. Annoying.

 

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A New Car Stereo

We bought a new car stereo today. Earlier this year our battery died, and rather than just get the code and start it again (the one we’ve been provided with doesn’t work), we left it. Then we got a bit fed up.

Then we had no money.

Then Shaun remembered we have a stash of Love 2 Shop vouchers, so browsed the Halfords online catalogue, found one he liked and bought it this morning. So really, we got a new car radio for free! We have digital radio (so clear!), a CD player (Shaun brought out the Annie Soundtrack?!) and a USB port to plug in our iPods (first song on H’s iPod – the Annie Soundtrack).

new car radio

The most annoying thing about the radio so far seems to be how it loves to promote what it’s capable of from time to time. Being a nervous driver at times, when lights flash I’m immediately directed to them, so found myself watching the display. We’ll work on how to get rid of that next…

Anyway, we now have music again! So much so we had the windows down in the car and Radio 2 on while driving through Banstead. Then I realised the radio was playing ‘I Just Don’t Have the Heart’ by Cliff Richard and quickly switched to 6 Music, hoping my indie cred was intact.

I also found some great eighties songs I’d put on H’s iPod in case of emergency, so got to drive around to ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ by Heaven 17, ‘Kids in America’ by Kim Wilde and ‘Pop Muzik’ by M.

I think it’s safe to say I’m loving having some noise in the car again – plus it masks all the bumps and rattles our poor old car makes….

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Back to Reality

School started back this week, after two inset days on Monday and Tuesday. H is now in Year 1, and everything is fine. She’s happy and getting on with it.

Wednesday was her swimming lesson – her teacher has started to take the class into the main pool at the end of the lesson to practice jumping in there (as it is deeper) and swimming to the side. While H still needs some work doing front crawl, she’s doing it perfectly on her back – she jumped in (which looked more like a star jump) and got straight onto her back and swam to the end. I’m impressed – I know she’s almost there, but her teacher giving all the children time to do it is brilliant. There are two classes working towards Stage 2, and only ours goes in the big pool. Her teacher thinks that by October half term she’ll be ready to move up – as well some of her friends in the same group, which is fantastic. The only downside is that her teacher doesn’t teach Stage 2, so we’d be moving into new territory – that and the teacher doesn’t go in the pool with them any more. I’m still getting my head around it thanks to only learning to swim once I was seven, whereas H is five.

She starts Rainbows in a couple of weeks, something she’s excited and worried about in equal parts. I know she’ll have a brilliant time and I’m hoping it will help with her confidence being around other children that aren’t just the ones she goes to school with. Add to that our neighbour goes to the same group, and I know she’ll be fine. It’s just a big step into another new thing.

The summer is over then, Australia been and gone and we’re settling back to normality again. I’ve really enjoyed our family time together and I’m craving more. Good job we’ve got plans for half term! I miss my little girl – she’s such fun to be around and has a brilliant sense of humour which comes out more every time we chat. She’s very loving and caring – yesterday when I felt unwell she brought me fruit (bless!) and patted my back as it was sore – it’s the little things, but I love her caring nature.

List Of Stuff

So working on the assumption that we’ll be emigrating in the next five years (I suspect it will be sooner), I need to do a list of things we need to do before we leave Europe. This is important stuff here, nothing too frivolous.

1. Go to Utrecht to the Dick Bruna Museum (visiting Amsterdam too and staying with friends nearby – looks good for 2015)

2. Take H to Brussels

3. Go to Paris (so we can use our Guy Fox Paris map that we recently backed on Kickstarter) and go to the amazing salad place – if it’s still there – in Montmartre.

4. Take H to a gig (child-appropriate)

5. Go to Camp Bestival next year

6. H needs to learn all of ‘Nevermind’ by Nirvana as that is the rule if she owns a band t-shirt

7. Take H to Salzburg to do all the Sound of Music stuff there. Cultured, I know. I’ve done it and loved it, and I know she will.

8. Take H to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to watch a play

9. Take H to a West End musical

10. Go to Berlin again

11. Take the Eurostar.

12. Get a Merlin pass next year in the sale and get our money’s worth. (and go to Chessington for the first time)

13. Go to Wembley

14. Take H to the York Panto with Berwick Kaler

 

That’s a good list for starters, and all are do-able, not too tricky. This is our List Of Stuff.

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Jetlag – A Survival Guide

Jetlag sucks. Okay, it isn’t life threatening or anything, but it’s still a pain and can be quite inconvenient. If you have felt the floor move beneath you when it isn’t, then welcome. Here’s my survival guide:

1. Sleep.

2. Eye masks

3. Have a child that sleeps.

4. Do not drink more than two coffees and have them both with breakfast

5. Drink lots of water

6. Someone else can do the driving unless you’re up to it.

7. Chocolate. Actually, this might not help at all, but it’s nice to have. Wine too. Actually, wine makes me feel sleepy.

If any of these are missing it could all go awry. That or your child that sleeps wakes up at the same time as you too, so you don’t go to sleep but they do, and you fear moving to get some space to sleep in case you wake them up.

Jetlag normally takes a week to sort itself out with me, yet on the way out to Australia it took three days. This is a record, considering it takes me a week to adjust when the clocks change in the UK and that’s only an hour.

Eye masks help block out bright mornings. You might look ridiculous with one on, but who cares? If it gives you an extra hour or two of zz’s then so what.

Having a child that sleeps helps a lot. Having a child that sleeps while resting her legs across you, lesser so. I didn’t get a lot of sleep on the flight either way. Mind, she didn’t either when she decided to wake up and chat to me about what she was watching on the in-flight entertainment. When we got home we both fell asleep two nights in a row at 7.30, and slept through until 5.30am. (apart from the obligatory 2am toilet call for me, my body thinking it was breakfast time)

She looked cool in her Toy Story eye mask as well. I might steal it. That’s not a bad thing is it?

On returning to the UK, do not under any circumstances whatsoever sleep through the day. There’s no point, if you’re like me then you’ll never sleep at night. Instead, walk around like a zombie and forget everything you set out to do. Thank the gods of tv programmes that you left the V+ box on so you have three episodes of The Great British Bake Off to watch, while your child recreates the recipes in Play Doh. Coffee is also out. One cup is allowed first thing, but after that it’s water all the way, baby.

The exception to that is work when you absolutely must have four coffees in quick succession to get through the day, as well as an additional one in the afternoon which will also prevent a 7.30 bedtime. It also prevents a midnight bedtime, but who’s keeping check?

When the floor starts to move beneath you but you’re not actually moving, it’s okay! It’s just bedtime – at 2pm in the afternoon. Jetlag is also dealt with better if you know how to count. Seven is an awkward number but as long as you think 24 hour it’s manageable. So when someone chats to you about work things you’ve missed and you find yourself responding to what they said (in your head) over an hour later on the train home, don’t worry, it’s just jetlag.

Oh, and to help keep the jetlag at bay, make sure to make several appointments where people have to deliver or pick up things – like a three seater settee – and make sure you stand in the doorway blocking it as they try to take it out, because you’re ‘holding the door’ which of course is completely pointless and only made sense because you’re tired. Make sure to talk to the Ocado man about how you’ve only just got home from your holidays today and then nod off when he tells you about somewhere hot he used to live because you only talked to him to stay awake and now he wants to have a conversation and it’s the last thing you can face.

Schedule blog posts. That way you can completely confuse yourself, when you check your blog the next day and say “did I really post this?!” without having any recollection of having done so at that time. Extra bonus point if you schedule it for the time you’d be getting on the train.

Also, try to pay for shopping with your Oyster card.

I think things may get back to normal next week.. until then, I read vitamin c helps so I think a large vodka and orange is on the cards. We have chocolate. We have a giant chocolate Australia. It’s like it was made for nights like tonight.

Chocolate Australia

One surefire way to make yourself snap out of it is when you realise your child is back at school next week and has grown 2cm since the end of term and that she needs new clothes. Seriously, she’s 122cm now, how did that happen?!

 

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WA Sunset from the car

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Australia in Winter

This is what I expected it to be like in Australia in winter. We had one day with fog in the morning, our last one. By around 9am it was sunshine without a cloud in the sky. I think we planned the perfect time to head there without actually realising. There was rain, there was fog, but there was sun and plenty of it.

foggy drive

We’re so lucky Shaun’s mum and dad live where they do. They’re outside Toodyay in the bush, so often there is peace and quiet and you can hear nothing. The night is so dark you can’t see anything without a torch – there are no streetlights to help you here. If you’re out walking, get back home by 6pm when it’s sunset as there are no lights to help drivers see you. The walk around the block of theirs is about 1.5km, and something we all did from time to time to get some exercise.

The downside is being so cut off from anything, but I didn’t need to do anything (we had one night out seeing The Dandy Warhols, and two nights staying at his Nanna’s in Coogee over near Fremantle) and being an hour or more from Perth, but it means you have to stop and relax at the end of the day – it’s not like there are things you need to do and find.

H discovered a new side as well. The climbing one. She’s always been okay but I’m terrible at letting go. This time the two times she had other children to play with, they were older and more confident and it rubbed off on her – she was climbing and joining in, trying to do what the other children were doing, but also asking for help when she knew she couldn’t. I need to take a step back and let her do things as I know she can. Almost a year ago we were sent some Adidas trainers from Sports Shoes to review (over on Mum Friendly), and they still fit. I ordered in a bigger size, but these shoes have been brilliant and we’ll definitely get more when she grows out of them. She also turned five when we were out there – probably her first birthday without other children her own age, but she was fine with that. We did so many trips to places it was like one continuous birthday treat.

Frozen theme Ice Cream cake

We took the easy option with her birthday cake. I’d bought some Frozen characters before we left (although Hans fell off his base so had to be on the cake over Kristoff – I’m going to remove all the bases before H’s very small birthday party next month), Shaun’s mum Lyn bought an ice cream cake, we bought more vanilla ice cream and some blue food colouring and added some silver balls to the top, then sticking candles and Frozen characters on there. So easy and perfect for H who loves Frozen. This idea was completely stolen from Rosie’s friend – Rosie posted the cake on FB a few months ago and I knew it would be perfect for travelling.

Every day I checked the temperature and compared it to London. Every day we were warmer, and every night we were a couple of degrees colder. I’m really missing it. Back to work tomorrow. Big sigh.

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From Quiet to Loud Again

Three weeks ago we went to Australia. We’d have been at Heathrow around this time, and there are many many things to write about. We arrived in Australia at midnight the following day, and back to Toodyay around 1am on the Thursday.

The things I don’t want to forget:

The quiet. Space and time to think about things. Clear skies where you can see the milky way and billions of stars. The sound of frogs, kookaburras and more as night falls and the house moves into darkness. There is no light pollution where the in-laws live so you can see everything. Even if my camera isn’t great, it picked up this:

Milky way from Toodyay

It’s also quite cut off, so you don’t have much of a social life. I don’t anyway so it was no big deal. I was more than happy to sit around playing Scrabble and drinking wine. It was all about family.

Family. While they’re my family through marriage, they’re H’s family by birth. I think she was amazed at how many Aunties and Uncles she has, as well as cousins and other relations – we ran out of time to meet my dad’s cousin (my only Aussie relative in Perth) – but we have lots of family out there. H has never really experienced having a big family and I know she loved it. She had lots of people who really cared for her – as well as two grandparents.

We were busy every day doing something. It was tiring but good. Once the jetlag had gone we’d sleep for ten hours a night which is unheard of as we live in London where you have to have as little sleep as possible to get things done in a day. Which is another eye opener as Shaun finally said “I could live here again”. While we don’t have plans, we both want to move, so it will happen one day. I don’t know when, but to get to that stage is a huge step. I’m thinking in 2-3 years maybe. Not sooner.

The smell of the bush. It smells so good. I want my toilet to smell of that fresh eucalyptus smell with a bit of outdoors thrown in. I wish they could bottle it up and send it to me – it was fresh air and I crave it. Especially now we’re back in London. The asthma inhaler has come out again.

Australia was so bright and colourful and sunny and warm – and they’re having winter. We got back to London and it was dull and grey – and we’re having summer. It felt depressing to be back – though I’ll put that down to holiday blues for now.

We brought an entire suitcase back of things we’d bought – and still stayed well below our allowance. Singapore Airlines have a very generous 30kg allowance. Maybe next time we’ll actually take presents… on the way out we didn’t even have half.

Kangaroos. I will forever be fascinated by them. The way they hop around anywhere they bloody well want – like in front of our car (this is the second time this has happened and why I’m nervous about driving in Australia). More often than not they’re just hanging out in a paddock on the drive back to Toodyay.

Sunsets. You cannot beat a WA sunset. Shaun and I would often drive around Wandoo Hills to get to the other side to catch the sunset, a mixture of darks and reds.

The beach. There’s nothing like fresh sea air to clear the mind.

Drive through bottle shops. Buying beer without getting out of your car? Great!

Drive through coffee shops. Buying coffee without getting out of your car? Oh yes!

Target selling acceptably brilliant clothes? Oh yes. I spent around £60 there.

Jetlag only taking two days to clear. Really. But poor little H waking up at 2am (I did too) and sitting reading a book as she thought it was the morning. I stayed up with her until she fell asleep again, so didn’t get a lot of sleep that night.

Fremantle.

Sleep.

The smells. The sounds.

I’m really missing it this time. We could have done another two weeks out there and still not done everything we’d planned. I would decorate this post with photos, but I’m too tired. Maybe another No Words Picture or two instead. It’s currently half past midnight there so I’m expecting to crash any time now.

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