Life lessons from 48 hours in a theme park

During our France trip we spent two days in the “Magical Kingdom” in Paris. It’s been fun. Still deciding if I should write a review (I loved it!). Before I do that, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve observed​ and learned about life, just from our short time there…

  • Children can move quickly if they want to – tell your child they’ve got 10 minutes to get to the other side of the park before they miss the slot on a Buzz Lightyear ride and just check out the speed they develop. Think about that next time their dawdling in Tescos
  • Children can be patient when they want – we waited 90 minutes for one ride! That’s about the length of a Disney animated film!! Regardless of the fact he hated the ride and cried when he finally got off, it reminded me that finding your child’s motivation is really important. I sound like a cheesy management training guide, but knowing what motivates someone can really help to drive them towards a goal
  • Fast food is still king – yes I know it’s a holiday destination and we should all have a ‘treat’, but the amount of burgers, chip and sugary snacks available in modern life is worrying. It was actually difficult to find anything that resembled a vegetable, apart from in the expensive restaurants 
  • Islamaphobia is real – sad but very true. I’m a people watcher. I love looking at people in a queue, wondering what their story is, conjuring up some exciting journey that has brought us to the same point. But I couldn’t help but notice the number of extended glances aimed towards people  of a certain skin tone or women wearing headscarves. Isn’t it sad that we can’t just let people enjoy their days out? Do I want my sons to grow up in a world where people so blatantly give fearful or even disgusted looks to people because of their race or religion? 
  • We are selfie obsessed – they are everywhere!! From young girls to ‘wannabe cool’ dads. I worry that people aren’t really soaking up the environment around them and missing beautiful sights, just so they can perfect a pout
  • Languages are important – I love languages. I sometimes regret not pursuing a career that let me use my degree level Spanish. I don’t think everyone needs to learn them to this level, but just having a basic appreciation for host language can break barriers. Seeing the smiles on people’s faces as my son uttered a mancunian “merci”, was lovely. One of my favourite quotes from Nelson Mandela says, 

    If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

    In times of ignorance and intolerance, this couldn’t be more true

  • Family time is important – even with the sugar highs (and lows), spending small fortunes on fatty foods and tat, you can’t get much better than family time. No work emails, no chores, no gadgets, nothing to rush back for. Just a chance to talk, laugh, play and really enjoy each other’s company. Even moody teenagers were laughing with parents and siblings!! Whether it’s going abroad or staying at home with a board game, this is what really makes a difference to little ones – blocking out other influences and just enjoying time as a family. We just can’t let modern life let us think otherwise 

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Holiday prep, or lack of

I finished work today and won’t return for 17 days (yay!) as we are heading off on our road trip to France tomorrow. I should be excited, relaxed, but I’m not. Why? Because holiday prep with kids is so different. The boys are sorted, I started early….

  • New ‘holiday clothes’ bought – I still don’t know why we do this. My children look presentable most of the time, yet for holidays we want them to look photo-shoot ready
  • Sandals bought
  • Passport photos done – I’m sure they get more and more expensive every year. Apart from passports, what elser do people use these tiny photos for?
  • Passports ordered in advance
  • European Health Insurance card ordered for Boy2 – Thankfully these last a good few years so none of us will need new ones for a while. These are really important (I learned this during a fateful night in Ayia Napa many years ago. I’ll spare you the details, but believe me I’ll never regret taking the five minutes to complete the form. And now they are online!
  • Drinks and snacks sorted
  • Toys and activities for the road trip
  • Bought new contents for my make shift first aid kit: plasters, calpol, allergy medicines
  • Printed off the all-important Disneyland tickets 

It’s 1030pm, but I’m not sorted. I still need to:

  • Pack holiday clothes (I only treated myself to two new items after spending a small fortune on the  boys)
  • Try on said holiday clothes and pray to the holiday gods they still fit
  • Download a couple of books to read
  • Paint my nails
  • Clean the kitchen (I hate coming back to a dirty kitchen, it just kills your holiday vibe) 
  • Write a list for my mother re feeding the fish etc 

I guess even after eight years of being a mother I still haven’t admitted to myself that before the holiday ‘relaxation’ comes the stress and panic. It’s all about getting the little ones sorted before I can give myself a thought. 

Ah well, it’s all worth it. Bring on the early start! 

Top tips for train journeys with a toddler

So yesterday Boy2 and I ventured into London for the day. I’d arranged to meet my old uni pals so thought it would be nice for him to see them again and a great opportunity for Boy1 to have a day with daddy (one on one time is so important when you have children).

So off we went on the 0936 from Manchester. It’s been a few years since I ventured on a train with a toddler but I managed to remember a few important things….

  1. Advance Planning – book your train ticket in advance. Not only does it save save £££, but it increases your chances of being able to reserve a decent seat. Extra tip – if you select a seat with a table and near a toilet, you are more likely to get one close to the disabled area (coach C is a good bet) then you are likely to have space to park a buggy. 
  2. Timing – think about the time of your train. Avoid really busy times and work around meal/nap times. Do you really want to be stuck on a rammed train with a screaming, hungry toddler? I split his breakfast into two parts. Porridge before we left home then some toast on the train (which also kept him occupied) 
  3. Snacks – very very important for distracting little ones. Whilst 2 hours doesn’t seem too long, it can feel like an eternity with a bored little one. So plenty of rice cakes, fruit slices, raisins etc but I’d avoid spillable things like yogurt. 
  4. Entertainment – again, more distractions. Depending on the age of your little one, an iPad and headphones might do the trick (remember to download in advance!) in fact Virgin trains have just launched its Beam app which is great for accessing kids shows like Peppa Pig. But you’ll need to download the app before your train leaves. Books to read (thin ones) and colouring books are also a good idea. 
  5. Pack light – yes, with all the food and entertainment. It’s more about packing smart. Can you pack everything into one bag, or try to squeeze a bag into the buggy basket. Basically, you don’t want a massive bag hanging off your shoulders or handle bars. Rucksacks are quite a good idea to be honest
  6. Energy management – so you’ve arrived at your destination, but your child has been strapped in a buggy or pinned down to his seat for the past three hours. Try to find some time and space to let them stretch their legs and burn some energy. Make sure they also do this towards the end of your day. This is particularly important for your journey home. In an ideal world they’ll sleep on the train. 
  7. Meals – yep, talking about food again. But search for child-friendly places to eat in advance so you don’t have to pack to many meals, you aren’t wandering the streets at the last minute with a starving child and, most importantly, you know they’ll eat. 
  8. Sleep – try to aim for a return journey where little one will be ready to sleep, or at least winding down. We opted for the 64o. Once we were on the train, it was time for dinner (Ella’s kitchen obvs) a few books and a nappy change them he was clearly tired. I think the tiredness was down to letting him run riot in M&S for half an hour before a half hour walk to Euston a la point 6. So once he was in the buggy, he spent about 15 minutes mesmerised by passing trees, then fell asleep. 

Travelling alone with a little one can be daunting but also lots of fun. If you haven’t dared do it yet, I’d encourage you to give it a go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! 

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