Sleepless in Salford

Just a few, short nights ago we were sat in a hot tub on the last night of our holiday, under a canopy of trees and stars, debating what our next holiday should be.

Scotland? The Shetland Islands or Orkney perhaps?  Italy? Spain? Hell, why not an all inclusive on a Mexican beach? With a kids club of course, so we can sip cocktails at a swim up bar all day while the kids have a whale of a time with all their new friends…

Of course, that was after we’d been there long enough to forget the joys of the flight over, and before the even bigger joys of the flight back.  

I was actually going to write a post of tips for flying long haul with a fifteen month old. I even drafted it… It was pretty short and sweet. It simply said “don’t do it”.

But enough of that. We’ve now been back nearly 3 whole days, and whether it’s the attempt to return to a normal routine, or jet lag, or a bit of both, but among the holiday souvenirs we brought back with us, it appears our children no longer sleep.

Usually, if C’s really unsettled, an emergency episode of In The Night Garden is enough to remind her that it’s bedtime.  A sign of just how bad things have become: tonight, it took that plus half an episode of Mr Selfridge (she wasn’t a fan), a partial lap of the M60 and the entire Radio 4 shipping forecast… and still no sleep.

Seriously? The shipping forecast nearly sent me off!

I actually made it back home at one point with what appeared to be a sleeping baby, but she could clearly sense what was going on and promptly started wailing again.

To that point, it’s currently 140am and I’m sat in the car in one of the more salubrious neighbourhoods of Salford (I figure I’d rather come up against Worsley’s neighbourhood watch than some of Salford’s more colourful nightlife), writing this blog post.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention – the last time I saw Mr Jones, he was blearily trying to coax/bribe a tearful and very awake 5 year old back into her bed.

Last night both kids were asleep by 330am. Tonight’s looking like it won’t be that far behind. And of course we’ve both got work in the morning.

Who ever said having kids was a good idea?!

Toronto with kids

A friend’s wedding may have been our perfect excuse to head over on holiday to Canada, but it’s also a place I’ve always wanted to visit. It might be a slightly different type of holiday with two kids in tow than it would have been a few years back – not much opportunity for wandering and exploring, or hanging out in vaguely hipster bars – but it was still a fab trip.  

Here’s some of our highlights and tips if you’re heading to Toronto with kids – especially in winter when some attractions are closed and it’s too cold to spend much time outdoors:

CN Tower Restaurant   

 

It’s the big attraction of the Toronto skyline and one that’s easy to get the kids excited about.  You can buy a standard entrance ticket for $32, but our tip is to book a table at the 360 revolving restaurant.  It’s $55 for the fixed price two course lunch menu ($35 for kids), so not that much more than the standard entrance plus buying food out somewhere else, if you think about it.

The food is genuinely delicious and generous in portions, and you get unobstructed views through the glass as the restaurant revolves while you eat.  You also get access to the viewing level after you’ve eaten where you can brave the glass floor and venture outside on the walkway (although this bit is behind mesh so the views aren’t as good as in the restaurant).  Our two were ‘too cold’ within about 30 seconds of stepping outside so the time in the warmth of the restaurant was well worth it to take everything in, and we were able to get some great photos without having to resort to buying the green screen official pics from downstairs.

There’s a small kids play area on the ground floor as well which is worth knowing about if you need the kids to burn off some energy either before or after!

Oh, and if you’re scared of heights like me, stand at the back of the elevators when you’re going up, as the glass doors – and glass panels on the floor – don’t hide anything!

Ripleys Aquarium

 

When we were asking Torontonians where we should take the kids whilst in Toronto, the relatively new aquarium, right next door to the CN tower, was roundly recommended.  I almost didn’t bother though – surely an aquarium is an aquarium, I thought, and we’ve been to a few in the UK to know what to expect.  I’m so glad we did though, Ripleys is by far the best aquarium I’ve been to and well worth a visit.

Whilst the whole thing is really well designed and the children’s play area right in the centre could easily have kept our eldest entertained for hours if we’d let her, the highlight was definitely the underwater tunnel. Unlike some I’ve been to where you can see the other end as soon as you enter, and at busy times inevitably gets blocked by people standing waiting for a lonely shark to wander past, this one twisted and turned back on itself so it felt like it was huge, and the moving walkway running through it meant you could concentrate on fish watching not on tripping over someone else’s children. Add to this a plethora of sharks, a lazy sawfish laid right on top of the tunnel, and countless other fishy delights, and it was a big win.

The visit was topped off with a chance to see a diver feeding the fish in one of the tanks (and happily posing for photos with the kids after the ‘show’), and plenty of chances for the kids to crawl under, through and into tanks of fish (all while staying dry!), which all in all meant we pretty much had to bribe G to leave.  Luckily this was achieved by the promise of the outdoor railway museum right across the street, complete with a real life ‘Tidmouth Sheds’ and train turntable.  

If you need to bribe any adults to leave, one of the sheds now hosts the Steam Whistle Brewery tour. 

Just saying.

Marlies Ice Hockey at the Ricoh Arena   

 

I loved the idea of going to an ice hockey game, but tickets to see the Toronto Maple Leafs were pretty much out of our range, especially as I wasn’t sure how the kids would cope with an evening game, and wasn’t entirely sure how child friendly it would be in general.

Instead we bought $30 tickets to see Toronto’s other team, the Marlies, playing against Chicago Wolves.  My fears of whether it would be appropriate to take kids to were allayed when our taxi followed a school bus full of kids in to the arena, which is just a short taxi ride from downtown.

Despite being a low scoring game (2:1 to Chicago, since you’re asking), it was a much greater spectacle than seeing it on tv would have you think, and great fun. We resisted the urge to buy a giant foam finger (I’m not sure we’d fit it in our luggage home!), and left a little before the end to grab a cab from outside and get the kids to their much welcomed beds.

Ontario Science Centre

 

Despite being a taxi ride out from downtown (ours was about $25 each way), and with an entrance fee of $22 ($13 for kids), the Ontario Science Centre is a stalwart of the guidebooks and promised lots of hands on experiments and fun.

The building itself is rather sprawling and poorly signposted, and compared to the shiny newness of the aquarium some of it has seen better days, but it’s what’s inside that counts, and despite a whole afternoon there right until it closed at 4pm, we barely scratched the surface.

The big success of the day was the planetarium, where we went to a show for fives and under which saw the night sky projected onto the ceiling, taking the kids around the constellations and off on a spaceship to the moon. Both G and C were rapt – the latter particularly striking as she had been in a monumental grump most of the day!

The hands on science arcade was also a winner, and we could easily have spent longer there if we’d had a bit more time and energy.

Top tip if you do go – find out if the Van de Graaf generator is still there – it’s all Torontonians will be asking you for days.  We missed it but it seems to be the one thing locals all remember from school trips.

Long haul

 

We’re currently on holiday in Canada, where friends of ours got married this weekend (congrats again Sarah and Jon!).

This of course means that C has been on her first aeroplane. Two, in fact. Although given she slept right the way through the first one I’m not entirely sure it counts?

The prospect of entertaining two little ones for upwards of 12 hours wasn’t one that I was overly excited about, but needs must and we packed accordingly with two Trunki suitcases (genius products, for what its worth!) full of everything I could think of.

It turned out that whilst G was more than happy to be occupied by the in flight entertainment (she now has a new found love of My Lttle Pony), the main thing to entertain C was being allowed to sit and stand on my seat.

  

This in turn meant that much of the journey for me was spent sitting on the floor or standing up. Well, they do say you should keep mobile when flying long haul, and I’m sure C was only thinking about my health.

Despite everything we made it to Toronto in one piece, albeit tired and minus a couple of bags. The latter was, at least, an excuse to hang out in our Airbnb apartment for most of the following day, waiting for the bags aka slobbing about in yesterday’s clothes.

Although the girls have coped with the jet lag admirably, poor C has come down with some kind of stomach bug which meant I got back from the wedding on Saturday night to find a small child not only awake but vomiting all over the apartment. 

Cue another day in the apartment nursing her / recovering from the festivities.  Whilst there’s never a good time to be ill I guess it’s better this way than being on a day when we had to travel or had things booked.

She’s much better today, and although she’s not quite herself still she did polish off a pizza this evening and managed some smiles at the Toronto Aquarium we visited earlier.

I’ll save that for another day though as it definitely deserves a post of its own!

Happy Mother’s Day!

 Happy Mother’s Day!

What’s that you say?  Mothers Day was last weekend?  Yeah, I know. But to be honest I’ve only just recovered.

As you can see below, things started off well with a rather impressive haul of cards and gifts!  A combination of school, childminder, Rainbows and a trip to her favourite next door neighbour meant that I’m fully supplied with homemade goodies and decorations for the foreseeable future.  

  

Oh, and I got a huge chocolate cake with a sparkly sprinkles love heart on the top too.  That didn’t make it into the picture, I’ll leave you to guess why.  Even C got in on the act, crafting some surprises with what I suspect was more than a little adult help.

So why have I only just recovered? Well it wasn’t down to the excessive consumption of chocolate cake, although there was a clear risk of that.

No.  In our wisdom we decided to take two kids on a day trip that involved a total of 4.5 hours in the car. Which, with iPad, colouring books and DVD player packed would have been fine, until we hit the classic ‘I need a wee!’, ‘no I can’t wait’, ‘I really REALLY need a wee, now!’ stage.

Even that would have been ok if our emergency stop in a layby hadn’t caused the youngest child to wake up and scream blue murder until we got to our destination.  Or should I say screamed on and off for another 6.5 hours until we got back home again.

I blame teething. It’s surely not anything to do with the parents…

To her credit, G was a star for at least 90% of the time. And C managed some smiles and giggles inbetween her crying fits.  But next time, we’re staying over somewhere.

All set for our long haul flight for our holidays then? 

Er….

New shoes and tantrums



I’ve written before about C’s baby anger management ’issues’. Well, today they came to a head.

Yep, at a tender 14 months old, the so called terrible twos have begun. And today I was that Mum in Clarks in the Trafford Centre with the screaming, thrashing, kicking baby, all because I decided to stop her from pulling all the shoes off the shelves.

It was actually the second meltdown of the day, the first caused by not allowing her to draw all over herself and the furniture with her big sister’s felt tip pens.

I know, mean Mummy, right?

This is a whole new world for me – G was always easily distracted by something like “ooh, is that a dog over there?”.  Not so C.  But I was at least heartened to find that most of the looks I received from other parents appeared to be ones of sympathy and not judgement. Or at least that’s what I took them to be, whilst C yanked on my hair and slapped me repeatedly in the face.

Thanks to some very patient staff and a few surprisingly smiley breaks in the whole episode we eventually got the shoes. Cute, aren’t they?

But, covered in snot (both of us), and still teary eyed (C, although I wasn’t far behind), we passed on the opportunity for a ‘my first shoes’ framed photograph.

Maybe next time. 

If there ever is a next time…

Peas please



Turns out C is a big fan of sugar snap peas. Seriously, huge.  Who knew?!

She clung hopefully on to this particular pack of peas all the way around our local Aldi, all the while gurgling, laughing and occasionally shouting at our fellow shoppers, and brandishing her precious peas.

See that little tear in her eye? That’s from when I cruelly prised the packet from her hands in order to pay for it at the till.

Yeah, I’m mean, aren’t I?!

It’s ok though, the tears disappeared quickly as soon as the peas were back safe in her hands.

I guess I should be grateful that she takes a shine to a humble (if slightly middle class), healthy vegetable, instead of the sorts of things I take a shine to in Aldi – craft books, kids jodhpurs, wetsuits…

One thing’s for sure, if I could keep my purchases as modest and practical as this we’d have a lot more space in our house!

Stairway to trouble

C is 14 months old now and although she’s not yet walking she’s definitely asserting her dominance in our household.

A couple of weeks ago, her latest ‘thing’ was stair climbing.

It was as if she had some kind of magnetic attraction to our – steep, somewhat dangerous – stairs.  There’s a room full of toys downstairs, but no, it’s got to be the stairs.

And to be fair to her, she’s pretty good at it. If a person could forge a career from infant stair climbing, she’d have it nailed.

But now we’ve foxed her.

One trip to our local major supermarket chain and a little bit of elbow grease later, and voila! One shiny new stairgate was in place.

I promise you C, I won’t always spoil your fun in such dictatorial fashion. 

Well, maybe just a little bit, sometimes.



All night long

2015/01/img_8282.jpg
C has never been a great sleeper. That much is true.

In fairness the main challenge for us as parents has been a lack of consistency – some nights she will wake just once or twice and go back to sleep easily, others she’ll wake every hour and cry no matter what you do to comfort her.

After a string of not-great nights, however, last night C did something I don’t think she’s ever done before.

SHE SLEPT THROUGH!!!!

And I mean properly slept through – from a little after 7 in the evening for a full 12 hours.

I’m under no illusions that this is going to be a new habit, but the childminder has been told that whatever she did with her yesterday she should do every single day from now on.

And obviously whilst she might have slept through, I still ended up going to check on her, amazed and slightly aghast at her sleeping prowess, no fewer than three times in the night.

Of course people forget that babies aren’t necessarily meant to sleep through the night; that it’s normal for them to wake a few times, and in fact it’s pretty normal for adults to wake in the night too.

But that’s not stopping me doing a little happy dance this morning and heading to work with a new found spring in my step.

Long may it continue.

Baby anger management

2015/01/img_8180.jpg
We’ve joked since C was little that she needs to go to baby anger management classes.

She certainly has a way of letting us know what she wants, complete with staring, pointing, shouting and thrashing of arms when she gets really serious. I’ve had many a clout round the head from her already.

Today, she wants my lunch.

The lovingly picked out healthy baby’s lunch with a nice balanced range of fruit and veg that we’ve offered her just isn’t good enough: she wants my juicy, yummy, spicy Nandos chicken with chips instead.

To be fair, I can’t blame her. It really is quite yummy.

Happy New Year

2015/01/img_8139.jpg
We might be past the days when we can go out celebrating New Year at street parties with bottles of Irn-Bru topped up with vodka, but that doesn’t mean that C wants to miss out on the celebrations.

This little minx slept soundly until approximately 11:51pm when she decided she had to come downstairs to join us ringing in the new year.

Listening to fireworks simultaneously on the TV and outside, there really wasn’t that much choice in the matter: we had to treat ourselves to another Jones family new year selfie. I think this might become a little tradition for us.

We might have been missing one child from the picture this year, but I was quite happy that G was tucked up in bed, snoring away happily. Certainly preferable to last year when she was grumpily telling us off for waking her up by having the tv on too loud, when in fact it was the fireworks outside that had woken her.

So, happy new year! I wonder what 2015 will hold in store?