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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Entertaining Young Children On A long Car Journey – Travel Doodles Review.

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Quite a few of my sentences now seem to start with the words ‘when I was young…’, which prompted Freya to ask what life was like when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

It was tempting to make up stories about having a pet tyrannosaurus but I had to admit that while I’m old, I’m not that old.

One of the most recent times I have said it was after Mark suggested getting a few things to entertain Freya on our long car journey west.

“When I was young we played endless games of eye spy or just sat quietly and enjoyed the scenery,” I said, forgetting that I am now the parent and had a three plus hour journey ahead of me sat in the back with her.

I’m pretty sure, as my parents will tell you, that I never actually sat quietly either – and Freya seems to have inherited that…skill. Usually when we go to Ipswich, an hour away, she’s asked ‘are we there yet?’ before we’ve even left Norwich. In the end I figured having something to entertain her with wasn’t a bad idea.

Mark gathered together a few little bits and every hour or so, usually midway between comfort breaks, I got one out of the bag.

The best one (or at least the one she played with the most) was the wipe-clean Travel Doodles pack from Usborne.

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She had lots of fun drawing faces on people, completing puzzles and designing outfits.

There are more than 100 doodles on the double-sided cards and then obviously you can wipe off and start again.

She played with the cards for more than an hour and now, even when we pop to the shops, she likes to get one out and doodle.

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It says not suitable for children under 36 months and some of the doodle suggestions are more difficult than others. Freya (at four/nearly five) could do the majority of them but there is room to grow too.

When I got home I looked them up and apparently they have other sets, including a general holiday one and 50 Things To Do On A Plane. I’d definitely consider them, if we go anywhere else.

We did play a few games of eye spy, which was interesting as she’s just learning to spell, and counted different colour cars and there was also time to just sit and take in the scenery but I think having a few extra things certainly made the journey more pleasant.

What’s your stance on entertaining children on long journeys?

Note: I’m not being paid to write about the Travel Doodles, I just really liked the cards and thought I’d recommend them in case you have a long car journey coming up.

 

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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