Leaving On A Jet Plane, Again.

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“I miss your brother,” Freya commented about an hour after we dropped him back at his hotel. 

He had flown to Holland from the US on business and had popped over to Norwich for two days on his way back. We’d had a lovely time with him but, knowing it will be a while before we see him again, I was certainly feeling a bit maudlin.

“I miss him too,” I said.

“It would be good if he could live in Norwich.”

“It would,” I agreed, although I know that’s not going to happen. His life (and family) is there.

“We could see him all the time.”

“Yes, maybe.”

“You could do things with him.”

“I could. We all could.”

“And now he’s gone.”

“Now he’s gone,” I agreed.

Then, with typical five year old aplomb, she shrugged her shoulders and said: “Circle of life, I guess.”

Not quite, little one, but it certainly made me chuckle.

~

You’d think I’d be used to him leaving by now. He has lived in the states for many years. At first there was no FaceTime and phone calls were still expensive so we really only caught up when I went over to visit each year, pre-Freya.

If it was just me – and not my parents too –  he would pick me up from Dulles International and, in a bid to stave off jet lag, we would drive to the local Barnes and Noble, in whatever neighbourhood he was living, and I’d look at pretty journals (you couldn’t get them over here then), browse the books and enjoy a hot chocolate at a certain coffee shop chain (also not over here then).

If you know me, you know I’m addicted to peppermint hot chocolate from that very chain (now practically everywhere) but I’ll let you into a secret; at least part of the reason I always like going there is because it reminds me of him. It’s the little things.

I’m lucky in that although he is gone, he isn’t gone. I can still email him, send him quotes from Ferris Bueller and get a response (no one else in the family gets that film) and see him via FaceTime. He has always been an amazing brother and I know if I needed him he would drop everything and come but I think I’ve almost got used to not needing him, as sad as that sounds. It’s just easier.

I was thinking about what Freya said later that night and maybe the five-year-old approach has some merit. While it’s not quite the ‘circle of life’ it is certainly ‘life’. There’s nothing to be done about it, I can’t make him stay – and wouldn’t want to as I know he wouldn’t be happy – so we just need to make the most of it while he is here and the best of it while he’s not.

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Do you have relatives who live abroad? How do you cope with missing them?

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Turning Five, Finally.

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“Who are important people?” Freya asked the other day.

It was ridiculously hot and we were sat on deckchairs on our balcony, trying to cool down. As her question was a bit out of the blue I thought for a few seconds and then said: “The prime minister, doctors and nurses, suffragettes…erm….”

“What about Barry Scott?”

The name was vaguely familiar but I couldn’t quite place him. I frowned.

“Who?”

“The man on tv?”

“Wait, the cleaning man. Cillet Bang?”

At that moment we both said: “Bang! And the stain is gone.”

After we had finished chuckling I added: “Well, I guess he’s important to people who like cleaning?”

“I like a clean house,” she said, with what I thought was more than a hint of criticism.

We don’t use any of those products (I’m more a white vinegar type of girl) but I’ve seen the advert on the children’s channel that is sometimes on in the background. I’ve never seen Freya really pay attention to it, she’s not one for tv or sitting still in general, but he’s loud and enthusiastic – a bit like a children’s tv presenter. Maybe that’s what grabbed her attention?

What I’m learning about just turned five years olds is that they take in much more than we (I) give them credit for.

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That realisation has come in little sharp shocks.

No more having conversations in front of her, especially ones where you try and spell out the word you don’t want her to know.

“Ooooh park, yes I would really like to go.” She looks up, expectantly.

Then there are the deep questions, it started off with the odd one here and there but now most things she asks require proper thought – especially as I realise what she is asking often seems to be unrelated to what she actually wants to know.

If my brain was a television it would have been on standby mode for most of the last five years but it’s like someone has just accidentally sat on the remote and it has come back to life at full volume, making everyone jump.

She’s not going easy, we’ve had many of the big ones. Death, God, crime, homelessness, racism, how did she get in my tummy?

As difficult as I sometimes find them, it’s these random conversations that I’m going to miss now she’s back at school.

Year 1.

How did that happen?

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It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was looking down at the calendar I had just made -and still can’t quite bring myself to take down – wondering how I was going to fill the six-week summer holiday.

While it wasn’t without its days that seemed neverending (and not in a good way), on the whole I’d give it a thumbs up.

We were lucky enough to spend some time away from home, which I think helped break things up – for me at least. Freya would probably have been just as happy going to the local park every day (where we made some lovely new friends). I had one of those moments, watching her dance in and out of the water at the splash park, squealing with delight, where I thought: ‘Yes, this could be one of those perfect childhood memories.’

And, of course, at the end of the holidays, she finally, FINALLY had her birthday. I’m not sure why it seems such a landmark, probably because she’s made it so by counting down from January.

As, one by one, all of her school friends started blowing out their candles, Freya grew impatient for her own celebration. She had a long wait. We all did.

Finally five.

I really hope it’s as good as she thinks it’s going to be.

Little Hearts, Big Love

 

Our First Family Road Trip To Wales.

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While I love living in Norfolk, my head has well and truly been turned by North Wales – especially the hills.

Oh, the hills. We’re just back from a trip to the wild, wild west and it feels a little like I left something behind – possibly some fingernails from gripping on to anything and everything when going up and down unfamiliar mountain passes.

I’m sure you already know this but Norfolk doesn’t have many hills and apart from visits to my parents in neighbouring Suffolk, also hill-less, I haven’t left our home county since before Freya was born. That’s five years!

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That’s not to say we haven’t explored. In some ways it’s been brilliant getting to know Norfolk and the many and varied places under its big, endless sky better but I have missed hills.

It is with good reason that we stayed close to home. At first, Freya’s reflux meant even a 10 minute car ride to the train station to pick up my parents was torture for her (and me).

The curve of the car seat seemed to make her problems worse so I avoided the car and walked as much as possible. Even once all that horrible stuff came to a gradual end, we still had the lack of sleep to contend with.

All in all, it just seemed like too much effort to go far – especially as she was likely too young to remember it anyway.

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Llanrwst.
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Llanrwst.

This summer with, it has to be said, some trepidation, we decided to take the plunge and venture further afield.

And it turned out better than any of us expected.

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Betws-y-Coed.

Even getting to the top of Snowdon, via the train, to find visibility almost nil and gusts of wind that meant Mark and I had to cling to each other for fear of being blown off the summit, was more thrilling than disappointing (don’t worry, Freya stayed in the visitor centre with Mark’s parents).

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At the top. What a view!

We stayed three nights at the fantastic Meadowsweet Hotel in Llanrwst, winner of an episode of the tv programme Four In the Bed (I told my mum this and for some reason she got confused at thought we all had to sleep in the same bed).

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From there we visited many places including Betws-y-Coed, Snowdon, Caernarfon, Colwyn Bay and Harlech, before driving back to the Midlands, which is where Mark is originally from.

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Caernarfon.

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Betws-y-Coed.
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Harlech.

Here are some things I discovered along the way:

* Even when we thought we were saying place names correctly, we weren’t. One nice lady repeated Betws-y-Coed four times and I still couldn’t get it.

* I’ll be happy if I never have to see a public toilet again.

* I was so busy packing for Freya that I forgot to take myself shampoo, soap and enough knickers to last the week – thank goodness for travel wash (for my pants, not hair or body).

* It is unlikely that I would ever get fed up of taking photos of hills in Wales. I literally made Mark stop about 500 times every day so I could take (950) photos. Not even kidding.

* Freya is far better at travelling than I ever gave her credit for.

* Self catering would have been less stressful.

* I will be going back.

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We are more than half way through the school holidays now and there are only another couple of weeks left before Freya starts Year 1.

She’s very excited about the prospect at the moment and already loves her new teacher but, naturally, I’m worried – especially as she doesn’t turn five until this weekend. She still seems really young to be starting proper school.

I think she might struggle with a less play based environment but her teachers have been very reassuring and I know they don’t just start them learning algebra on day one. Hopefully she will have time to settle in and enjoy it.

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Swallow Falls.
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Swallow Falls.

Going on this trip, seeing Freya embrace new experiences has done us all the world of good.

Here’s to more road trips in the future, especially to Wales.

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