Dear William

Dear William,

My gorgeous wonderful sleep thief, it’s hard to believe that you have only been in the world for 5 short months, they have flown by. I can’t imagine life without you anymore, yet I know that I have changed your sister’s world forever. For good I hope although I know you will come to blows throughout your childhood. I hope we make it a happy one for you. I hope you are as happy as your sister seems to be, I think you will be as you are full of smiles.

There are some things I want to tell you, I am sorry for the reflux and for the pain you were, and sometimes still are in. I am sorry it took me so long to realise that the pain was definitely reflux and not colic, it was so hard to tell, as you were a sickly baby but not a really sicky baby and although I knew you had a bit of reflux I didn’t think it was that bad. I was wrong. Thankfully a lovely friend sent me back to the GP to get you some more medicine. I didn’t want to be ‘that’ mum bothering the GP all the time, I wish I had a bit more.

I am sorry that you sometimes have to cry, or your sister would never be fed or clothed, and she would constantly be having accidents as her timing is impeccable, she has the ability to wait until I am doing something with you and then only Mummy will do, for this I am sorry. Nobody tells you about these small things that will make you feel guilty, and they are small things, but with baby number 2, that’s you, things are different. They have to be as there is already another small person here depending on me, mummy guilt is the worse kind.

I am sorry as baby number 2 your routine fits in around what your sister is doing, I promise this will change, probably not any time soon, but it will when she goes to school and then there will be Mummy and William time, and we will have such fun just you and me. It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with both of you together I do, I love this time, but sometimes I feel like I am being split in two and that I don’t know which thing to do first. I treasure our time the 3 of us as I know it won’t last, soon Cora will be at school and we won’t have that. But I love our time together just the two of us, it is time to be treasured, and I will treasure it forever.

William you are such a lovely boy, such a precious boy, such a special boy. I love you with all of my heart, and I am thankful every day that you have come into our lives, you complete our family.

I will love you forever

Mummy xxx

Dear Cora

Dear Cora,

My beautiful beautiful Cora, I want to tell you how proud I am of you. I want to tell you how much I love you, and how much joy you bring to my world. I know it doesn’t always seem like that, and how unfair the world must feel to you sometimes. How you have gone from having my undivided attention, to having to share me with another person. I know I spend so much of my day telling you to leave your brother alone, and that he’s not a toy, I know that you love him and you want to play with him and share your world with him too, but you have to be patient he will share with you too.

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I want to tell you that you have been such a big girl, such a brave girl such a good girl. We moved you not once but twice in a short period of time, from what you have known since the day you were born to a new bed, a new room, a new house. But before you got your new bed you watched all your belongings get packed up in boxes and taken away in a great big truck, until we knew not when. You were so very good when we stayed with you Aunty and Uncle, but you broke my heart eve y time you asked me to go home, for we no longer had a home, one that was coming but no date to help you make sense of what was happening in your world.

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You are such a good big sister, so helpful and kind, not only did we move you but we added a new person to your world, one who you love but who has not always been the easiest to live with. I know when you act up it’s for my attention but believe me when I tell you my beautiful girl, you would get so much more if you just listened and did what you were asked. You are not a naughty girl, you are not a spiteful girl, but my darling your listening ears have a tendency to fail, this is a new thing, a recent thing since your brother came along.

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I wanted to tell you I am sorry I shout, sometimes I fear it may not totally be justified, the shouting I mean I am so tired all the time and tired Mummy is not always the most patient Mummy. I am sorry that I can’t always play with you as much as I would like, your brother needs so much more attention than you right now but I want you to know that these things will change, as your brother gets bigger and needs less attention, as he begins to understand the world more, as he begins to understand us more.

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I want you to know that I have found this difficult too, and I have felt oh so guilty that I have changed your little world, that although we did everything we could to prepare you for all the changes, that it was still hard for all of us, our little family of three has become four. This is not something I would ever change, I love you both to the ends of the earth, and slowly but surely we are finding our way, our new way, the only way.

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I need you to know that I love you with all of my heart, with all of my being, you are my beautiful rainbow and you will never know how much joy you bring to mine and Daddy’s lives. I hope I will teach you to be strong and courageous, to be kind and to help others. I hope I will teach you that you can be anything you want to be, I hope I bring you up to be a good person, but most of all I wish for you to have a lifetime of happiness, filled with love and laughter and friendship.

I will love you for always, Mummy xxxxx

To my Angel

To my beautiful Angel,

You would be 3 right now, I don’t even know if you were a boy or a girl, but you would be three. I wonder would you have ginger hair too? Would you be as cheeky as your younger brother and sister? I am sure you would have been as beautiful as they are.

I am sorry I didn’t protect you well enough, that I failed you, I am sorry that you are not here, although I know that losing you means that Cora is here, and I cannot imagine my world without her, I know my world would be different if you were here. I have a terrible guilt inside to both of you, to you for wanting Cora to be and to her for wishing that you had made it too. I know I could never have all three of you, but I will always wish I could.

I think of you always, I wonder what you would have been like? What your likes and dislikes would be, who you would be. What colour your eyes would be, would you be a dot like Cora or a giant like William, would you look like me or Daddy or neither of us?

Anniversaries come and go, you due date, the day I lost you, and I know only Daddy and I really remember those days, they will be forever etched in our memories, well mine anyway. talking about them and you is hard for other people because they don’t know what to say, so I find myself talking to a select few, I am sure you know who they are and I know they know, most of whom have also lost a baby, but there are a special few who have not suffered this trauma, this grief, who talk about you too. It shouldn’t be like this, we should be able to talk about you.

You are and always will be part of our family, your brother and sister will know about you, you are on our family tree for all to see, where you belong, I wish we could’ve given you a name, but you will always be Baby.

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I need you to know that I love you and I miss you even though we never met, I so desperately wanted to meet you, with all of my heart. I am so sorry that we didn’t.

I will love you for always,

Mummy xxxx

Two Waterbabies sitting on the wall

Saturday saw William go for his first underwater photo shoot, a milestone in his Waterbabies journey. At just 4 months old he has finished his first term of swimming lessons and has been deemed by his fantastic teacher Rosie to be ready to have his picture taken underwater. Rosie has been teaching Cora since she was 9 weeks old and when I decided (I say decided but there was never any question that William wouldn’t swim) to book William into lessons too, I knew that I wanted them to have the same teacher.

Waterbabies run an automatic rebooking system so usually unless you opt out your child is automatically booked onto the next chapter. When you are pregnant and nearing your due date, they take you off automatic rebooking in case you miss lessons having the baby and the weeks immediately post birth. If you do miss lessons for this then Waterbabies will refund you the money for the lessons you miss. So with William’s due date imminent we had been taken off rebooking, however because we are normally on rebooking we still got the texts and the emails. One of which came through the morning William was born and as I was sat waiting for Gareth to bring Cora back to meet her new baby brother, I thought I would just give them a quick ring to check Cora had been continued on to the next chapter and to book William into chapter one. I think Jamie in the office thought I was a bit crazy when he asked William’s date of birth and I replied today. Maybe I was but I knew if I didn’t do it when the text came through I would just never get round to it (I do a lot of things in my head but never actually get round to doing them, usually replying to text messages!).

William started his Waterbabies journey at just 6 weeks old, he was the youngest in his class but definitely not the smallest, there were only 4 babies in his class which was a complete contrast to when Cora started and the class was full, with 10 babies in it. When William started, he had to go on a different day to Cora because of his age. So the day he turned 6 weeks old we headed off to a new pool, Cora went to spend the morning with Grandma, and William and I went swimming for the first time. It was not the picture of serenity that you have in your head, of Mummy and baby bonding, of William loving the water, blah blah blah. Oh no William screamed the whole way through the lesson, from the moment he got in the water till the moment he got out, actually that’s not quite true as he was able to do his underwater swim and you can’t do that if your baby is crying so he must have stopped for a couple of minutes, but it did feel like the whole lesson. Luckily for me having swum with Cora I knew this could happen so stayed as calm as you can with a screaming baby for half an hour. Rosie of course was great throughout reassuring the other parents that sometimes this happens, and it’s completely normal.

Cora continued to swim in her old class on a Wednesday for the 1st part of the term, but it quickly became clear that in terms of childcare that wasn’t going to work. After speaking to Rosie and liaising with the team in the office (and one of the other mums in Cora’s original class who was also going to have to move her daughter) Cora (and Molly) started a different chapter in a different pool on a different day. Cora now swims first and William sits on the poolside then we swap over and Cora goes with Grandma to get changed whilst William swims with Mummy. Cora has actually come on loads in her swimming abilities since swapping lessons as she is now being challenged because there are toddlers who are nearly 4 and much more able in the swimming ability than Cora is. It’s fabulous to see! She has completed the ASA level 1 this term, which she did with Daddy as Mummy couldn’t take her one Monday as she had to be elsewhere. Very proud Mummy moment but I am quite sad that I missed it, but also glad that Daddy got to do something special with her the 1st time her took her.

William has gone from screaming every other week to loving being in the water at the end of the term. A grumpy boy on the pool side but loves to be in the water, although he doesn’t like to be cold, he managed to grow out of his wetsuit in half a term as he is a bit of a giant (sorry Will) and I forgot to order a new one, so thought I would risk getting in the pool without one! Half way through the lesson I had to put him in one of Rosie’s spares aren’t the teachers fantastic that they have such things as spare wetsuits! From screaming to those first glimpses of recognition about what’s going to happen next, recognising the songs and what’s required of him, it really is amazing. I am guilty though of over compensating with him, not taking him deep enough in the water as I am so used to taking Cora as deep as my arms will allow, well actually now as deep as she will take herself which by the way is the bottom to grab a sinkie! I forgot how little they are when you start when. You have an exuberant toddler jumping off your legs every week, you forgot just how little they are and how amazing those first lessons with your newborn are. How they change so quickly and adapt to their surroundings once they understand what is going on.

Saturday was the culmination of that first term, Williams photo shoot, which again he just loved, he did make it easy for us to pick a photo though, by only having his eyes open in one of them! It is an amazing photo, which is a good thing as there is only one. Now we just have to wait for it to arrive, to add it to our wall with the one of our beautiful Cora!

Swimming still remains Cora’s favourite thing to do, and although she didn’t want her picture taken on Saturday she did keep asking Gareth if it was her turn next, it is without a doubt my favourite thing to do with both of them. It’s my half an hour just with either Cora or William, Mummy and child time, and with two of them under three it’s pretty much the only regular Mummy and me time with them both. For me it is also the single most important thing I can teach them (with Rosie’s help) whilst they are this small. Drowning remains one of the leading causes of death in children under 5.

For all you new swimming mummies and daddies out there, don’t worry if your baby does cry during the first lesson, it’s ok. It’s one lesson and it will get better, it might take a few lessons but it will get better, your baby will amaze you, they will learn far quicker than you can imagine. For any of you Mummies and Daddies thinking about taking your baby swimming I can’t recommend it highly enough it is really amazing.

Welcome to the world William

 

So it’s been a while……. I haven’t written anything on my blog for a while, to start with it was because I was absolutely knackered with still being at work and being pregnant, then it was because all the things I wanted to write about were about being pregnant and I didn’t want to tempt fate (those of you who know me will know I am very superstitious and having lost one baby I would never have risked it!) and just recently it’s that stupidly, some might say, we decided to move house and have a baby all at the same time.

Anyway in a rare moment of quiet right now both children are asleep, the husband is at work, and whilst I have loads of things I could be doing, sitting down and writing something seemed like a good place to start.

So William is finally here, after what seemed like an epic pregnancy, where I have managed to put on a ton of weight and now look like the size of a house! (6 week check and weight watchers here I come!) and one in which I didn’t feel particularly well but thought it was down to my age, it turns out it probably wasn’t, which let me tell you makes me feel a whole lot better. Having felt like a bit of a burden on my work colleagues for the last 8 weeks of being at work, I think most of the way I was feeling was because I wasn’t so well. So thank you lovely work colleagues for looking after me so well, you know who you are.

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William was born via forceps delivery on the 10th of October at 05.58 he weighed 8lbs 15oz and was born at 40 weeks and 2 days as I was induced because of my age, something that nearly didn’t happen because the hospital policy says one thing, but the doctors thought something completely different. Thankfully it did happen as I dread to think how big he would have been if I had been left to do it on my own, Cora was evicted too at 42 weeks exactly so I think the likelihood of him coming naturally was quite slim. Both my babies were induced the both nearly ended up in c sections and both had assisted deliveries.

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Being induced is no fun at all, apparently it’s more painful than if you go into labour naturally, which the midwives seem to relish in telling you, is this to try and dissuade you from having an induction or just something they feel the need to tell you? I am pretty sure though that most women would rather go into labour naturally and not have to go through the process of being induced, because it’s certainly no fun. The only benefit of having an induction is that they don’t send you home, once you’re in you’re in until the baby comes.

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Whilst I was pregnant with William I had several episodes of reduced movements, leading to me going in to be monitored, where of course as soon as the CTG machine goes on he started wiggling about like you wouldn’t believe. Any of you who have read my bio will know that I am a nurse, I work in a children’s environment and we get the maternity crash bleep (emergency bleep) which admittedly probably makes you slightly more paranoid as our doctors run to those bleeps and we often hear the outcome of what happened to the babies they try to save. So when I had those episodes I knew I needed to be checked out, even so I still felt a little bit like I was wasting every bodies time. To be honest one of the times I went in the midwife looking after me made what was probably a throw away comment about waiting longer before coming in (I phone up at midnight and hadn’t really felt the baby move for a good 8 hours –how much longer do you wait and what, I go to sleep and then there’s no heartbeat in the morning?) she said other things too but that’s what I heard and that’s what I remember from that visit (oh and the fact that even she thought the hospital policy for inducing due to maternal age says that if you are 39 when you book in you don’t have to be induced at term you can wait, the registrar wanted me to be induced at term. I was 40 two weeks after I booked in).

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The rate of still birth is still shockingly bad for a developed country like the UK I think I read earlier today that it’s 1 in 220 births, and yes we are talking about it and yes we are more aware of babies movements. Comments like that, oh and that of the sonographer when they did a growth scan, to check that William was ok because I had had 2 episodes of reduced movements, who told me that ‘isn’t it normal for the baby to slow down before birth as there is less room?’ And that ‘it’s just an excuse for another scan’ can you believe that a health professional actually said that to a pregnant women worried about the health of her baby? It’s no wonder the rate is still high, would you go back after that? It isn’t true that babies movements reduce before birth and if you are worried about your babies movements you should speak to your midwife or your labour ward. There is loads of useful information about babies movements on either the Tommy’s website www.tommys.org.uk or on the Kicks Count website www.kickscount.org.uk. Tommy’s have just launched a new campaign all about babies movements called Movements Matter, trying to break some of those myths. Believe me when I say you are not wasting any bodies time and even if you think you are who cares? The most important thing is that your baby is ok and that you know it is. No midwife wants to help bring a baby into the world that will never take its first breath so bother them, if something is wrong they will be glad you did and it might just save your babies life.

Any way back to being induced, we rocked up to the maternity unit at 12.30 on the day we were booked in after phoning in the morning as we were told to and being given a time. The midwife sitting at the desk didn’t say a word, she just looked at us, got up went into the office and then came back, she then showed us into the parents room as there was no bed ready, and told us to wait. She never introduced herself at all, which I think is one of the most crucial things as a health professional you can do, the sad thing about it is that’s what I remember, not that she was actually lovely and that she did look after us very well even if it was only for an hour, when we eventually got a bed, I couldn’t tell you what her name is now because that was my first impression, I can however tell you the names of the midwives and the doctors who did introduce themselves and then gave amazing care, which to be fair to her she did give.

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We saw 4 different midwives between coming in on Saturday afternoon and still not being in labour on Sunday morning all of whom told us something different, and really made me feel like they couldn’t be bothered because this is what happens with induction nothing really! That if you are going to be induced it’s a long old process and the baby won’t be here for days, despite the fact that within 6 hours of having the propess with Cora I was in labour (although again the midwife on the late shift didn’t believe me because it was my first baby and they take at least 48 hours to come!) They do however give you a different drug if it’s the second time of being induced and so you do get checked after 6 hours which is better than the 1st time, and you do get to hear your babies heart beat at regular intervals as they check that the drug hasn’t distressed the baby. On Sunday morning a really lovely midwife came on duty, now what I don’t know is if they had suddenly decided to read my notes and saw what I did or if I am just being cynical and that actually she was just excellent. I mean she was excellent but was that how she always gave care or was it because of my job? There was a definite change in my care and the level of care we received. Any way all that aside, she took everything in hand and basically sorted out what was going on and got me reviewed by the registrar and got a plan in place. 2nd Prostin given but I don’t think she thought it was going to work, however 6 hours later 2cm dilated and a review by the Reg and we were off down to delivery suite for them to break my waters (in an attempt to bring on labour and not require any further drugs).

Once we were on the delivery suite we had a midwife with us until the baby was delivered and actually for some time after. Our midwife was amazing, unlike when I had Cora when I was in active labour by the time we got to delivery suite and actually have 6 hours of my life missing, I can actually remember most of William’s delivery, although entonox (gas and air) makes me like a drunk person so I do have some gaps which Gareth relishes in telling me the things I was saying.

My waters broken and I had 2 hours to start ‘doing it on my own’ when they would make a decision about whether I needed to have the IV infusion or could carry on without it. Thank fully I was progressing so I didn’t need it, and was given another 4 hours to progress further until the docs reviewed again. During that time William was monitored every 15 minutes by Doppler to check he was ok and once an hour a different midwife would come and check with fresh ears, something I don’t remember them doing with Cora, although like I said I have 6 hours of her labour missing and when I asked Gareth he couldn’t remember!

2am arrived and I was at 6cm so allowed to carry on but this is the point at which it all becomes a bit of a blur to me. Sometime over the next couple of hours I decided I wanted an epidural, which by the time the anaesthetist came to put it in I wanted to push so decided against it, thinking that he might be here soon so I would be ok, only to still be pushing 2 hours later and starting to really struggle, not only because I had now been up 48 hours but also because I have a pin in my hip, so I have a limited range of movement and was finding it hard to get into a comfortable position to push. During this time there was talk of a caesarean because they thought William’s head was tilted sideways, although a change in my position sorted that out. Eventually I think it was decided that I wasn’t going to get him out without a bit of help and the Reg was amazing, she put all my fears about forceps deliveries at ease, I was offered a spinal for it but she said it would take about half an hour as I had to go to theatre for that and by that point I had had enough, so I told her just to do it and get the baby out. She did she had him out in 2 minutes, a healthy baby boy, weighing 8lbs 15oz, unfortunately for our lovely midwife, she had gone for her tea break as William was born, we did have an equally lovely midwife take over from her, but since she had been with us since 20.00 the night before it was quite sad that she didn’t see him born.

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They had asked us what our birth plan when we got to delivery suite, but to be honest with both children we didn’t have one, just for the baby to come safely into the world, and although William was an assisted delivery we were able to have skin to skin and delayed cord cutting and all of those lovely things that happen after an uncomplicated birth, the things we missed with Cora because she was distressed and had meconium. We have a lot to thank the staff for as we do have 2 beautiful children who were bought into the world safely and although things happened during both of their deliveries because of the amazing midwives we had both times they were picked up quickly and dealt with effectively.

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Because William was delivered by forceps we had to stay in 24 hours after he was born, which to be honest wasn’t a bad thing. I was feeling quite light headed and breathless post birth and had had a larger than normal blood loss so they did my HB which was low so decided to start me on iron tablets, I have to be honest I am not a good patient and having not seen Cora for 4 days and seeing how upset she was when she had to leave William and I in the hospital the day he was born really upset me. I really wanted to go home, I don’t think I even told Gareth how rubbish I felt. Just walking from my bed to the desk made me breathless and I continued to feel lightheaded, however when I was sat down I felt ok, so when I was asked how I felt I was generally sat down so told them I felt fine, probably not my greatest move as I ended up having to go back twice as my HB dropped and I needed to have an iron transfusion. Really not what you need when you are trying to pack a house up to move and you have a new baby.

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It turns out that I also have a low B12 so am now being investigated for other stuff that might be wrong to give me a low B12. This does make me feel a whole lot better as I was quite breathless for the last 12 weeks of my pregnancy for no apparent reason and as I said before I thought it was because if my age, so I am quite glad that here may be another cause. I would rather not have anything wrong, hopefully a course of B12 injections will sort me out.

Cora is absolutely besotted with her baby brother and is turning out to be a great big sister, she is coping really well with moving house and becoming a new big sister which at 2 I am really proud of. We have had the odd tantrum and some really not very Cora like behaviour but in the whole she’s doing pretty well, and William well apart from being a bit sick after most feeds he’s a model baby, you couldn’t ask for a better behaved baby. We are truly very lucky and have the most wonderful family, welcome to the world gorgeous William we love you very much xx

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The Miffy/Nijntje Museum

Recently, (and I use the term recently loosely as it is probably a good 6 weeks) we went to visit some very dear friends of ours in Amsterdam, this is at least the 4th if not 5th time we have been to see them since they moved over and the third time we have taken Cora. The 1st time she was just 6 weeks old and we went over for their baby shower. They have a beautiful daughter called Imogen, who is 4 months younger than Cora, so the last two times have been full of play dates and egging each other on, but they get on so well and have such fun that’s it’s hard to be cross with them, when they do misbehave.

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Visiting Amsterdam with a local is a much different experience than being a tourist there, whenever we are there our days our filled with laughter and good food and this time was no exception. I think for me though the highlight of this trip (apart from seeing our friends which goes without saying obviously) was our trip out to Utrecht to visit the Miffy (Nijntje) museum.

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The Miffy museum is a magical place designed for 2 to 10 year olds and really is superbly well thought out, it has quite recently had a makeover and changed its name from the Dick Bruna Haus to the Nijntje museum. It does however have a few little teething problems, for example you have to buy your tickets from the museum across the road, but nowhere does it say that. By the time you are told you have to do that you have already exposed your children to all things Miffy, which for a nearly 2 year old to then be told we have to go somewhere else for a ticket is mildly frustrating. The next hurdle you are faced with is that the place where you buy your tickets is also the gift shop, said nearly 2 year old spots Miffy merchandise and has a tantrum because Mummy says wait until we have finished and we will come back then. Daddy is in the queue organising tickets when the person behind the desk says you only have 30 mins to enter the museum after you have bought your ticket, so you ask about the restaurant in the Miffy house to be told there isn’t one you need to use the one in this museum, but if you don’t have a ticket you have to walk all the way round the outside of the building to enter the restaurant, which again upsets the nearly 2 year old as again they don’t really understand what is happening.

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The restaurant although frustrating to get to was actually lovely, if not a little on the pricey side. The food was lovely with plenty of choice and special Miffy shaped sandwiches for the children oh and Miffy cakes too.

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Once lunch was over we headed over the road and managed to keep the 2 girls entertained with the giant Miffy outside the museum whilst tickets were bought by the other half of the party. There is plenty of buggy parking inside the museum and plenty of lockers to store coats etc in, and a little play area with a giant cuddly Miffy on a bench for the little ones to play with whilst you are sorting yourself out. Cora of course took a liking to said giant Miffy.

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Once we were all sorted it was on to the 1st room, a fabulous place full of pots and pans and all things needed for a child size version of Miffy’s house, even a second floor! Cora was up and down the stairs and in and out the kitchen playing with all the books even though they were all in Dutch. There was even a garden shed with a giant plastic dog as a pet in the garden.

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From there we went into the hospital/doctor’s surgery where there were lots of clothes to dress up in and play at looking after the patients (giant cardboard cut outs in real beds). Cora rightly choose the nurses outfit (even if a bit out of date it’s still what most of us would draw if we were ever asked to draw one!) she had so much fun in there although she was a little phased by the card board cut outs and actually took them out the bed and at one point got in the bed herself.

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Onto the next room which was filled with lots of Miffy memorabilia, our friends told us that some of it had been from a commemoration of Miffy the year previously, where there were giant decorated Miffy figurines dotted all over Amsterdam. Plus, various different games really designed for slightly older children, but they girls still loved it.

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Into the lift and upstairs to the transport room, both girls loved this room, with a model car they could sit in, put seatbelts on and pretend to drive, a road layout with trikes which were a little big for both girls so they didn’t get to go on those which was a bit of a shame. Finally, there was a bus that moved along on a runner, they both thought this was fantastic and it took a bit of convincing to get them both out.

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I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself, what I loved about it was that they had actually thought about smaller children too. It’s very rare to find somewhere where there is so much to do for the little ones and in the most part you have to pay such a lot of money for the privilege of not much to do. The Nijntje Museum have it spot on from that point of view as well as from a value for money point of view, they do however need to sort out how you buy tickets and eat in the restaurant as that bit of our day was really quite stressful. Cora came away with a whole load of Miffy goodies which she loves. A great day had by all.

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Turning 2

My beautiful rainbow has turned 2. Time seems to have flown by, I can’t quite believe it’s been a year since we celebrated her turning 1, but here we are a big 2! Last year I knew exactly what I wanted to do for Cora’s birthday, I wanted to celebrate that she was here and it wasn’t so much about her, as celebrating with all our friends and I knew the party needed to be rainbow themed. This year wasn’t so easy, at 2 do they really understand birthdays? No not really, but do I want to celebrate yes, as I think birthdays should be celebrated, but what to do?

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I found it really difficult this year to decide what to do, partly because of the time of year as it’s June, I wanted to do something outside but what if it rained? We had glorious sunshine the day she was born and for her 1st birthday but nothing is certain about British weather is it? I also wanted to do something that I knew Cora would enjoy, and that all her friends would enjoy too. At 2 they are not quite playing together but playing alongside each other, together but separately. Then you have the “who to invite”? When you have school aged children I guess you just ask your child who you are going to invite, but Cora spends some time with other children of various ages at the childminders (who’s actually my sister) but it’s usually just one day a week, then obviously her swimming friends, but I think mainly at a 2 year olds birthday party it’s the children of my friends and family children. So a bit of a mixed bag of ages, ranging from 9 months to 12 years old (my niece).

I looked at going to the farm or having a party at a soft play venue, but with the number of children and her only turning two I decided that it was very expensive, and I don’t begrudge paying the money, if I thought Cora would understand what was going on, but I think at 2 she understood a little bit but not really. We sometimes go to a mobile soft play on a Thursday and one of Cora’s swimming friends had had them for his second birthday, so I decided that this would be the way to go, just to find a venue now.

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We go to a playgroup on a Wednesday morning in a place called the Community House, (which unfortunately is due to close in August) which Cora loves and you can hire out for what I would consider to be a relatively small £12 an hour, so I thought why not with sunshine soft play costing £95 for the morning which included a bouncy castle, Cora’s party was booked.

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Invites all sent out now to organise food and “party bags” for all the children, oh and decide on a theme, that bit was actually quite difficult this year, she loves so many different things I just couldn’t decide what to do and certainly couldn’t decide on a cake. What I did know was that I wanted to do something a bit different for party bags, I wanted something personalised because Cora and quite a lot of her friends have names that are not very everyday if you know what I mean. Eventually I decided on personalised cups, from a company called The Personalisation Station, everyone loves something with their name on it.

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Cora ended up having a Miffy themed birthday, as the weekend before we went to visit some friends in Amsterdam and whilst we were there we went to Miffy’s house, an interactive Museum all about Miffy, (that whole experience is definitely for another post). Cora was enthralled by the little white rabbit, and they had a whole selection of party bits and bobs in their shop, so a Miffy themed party it was. Miffy Cake, Miffy crowns, Miffy badge, everything Miffy.

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I decided to do lunch boxes for all the children to try and avoid a whole amount of food waste, although thinking about what to put in them was a bit of a dilemma, Cora doesn’t do sandwiches at all and one of Cora’s friends has a food intolerance, so I needed to think about what I put in them. In the end I decided to go with pasta pots as all of the children could eat them, and most people like pasta, everything I put inside the lunch boxes could be eaten by all the children, and each lunch box had their name on so even if there was something they couldn’t eat they could all eat what was in their own lunch box. I made 1 big Miffy cake that I then saved for a BBQ later in the day and sent all the children home with a Miffy cupcake, and again I made them so all the children could eat them. Having had an intolerance in the past I think it’s important to think about what you give people with allergies/intolerances as making do is really no fun.

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Cora had a fabulous time at her party, she loved the soft play and I think all the children had a good time, she was one spoiled little girl, thank you to everyone who celebrated with us that day, for making the effort to come and for all her lovely presents. I still can’t quite believe that our beautiful rainbow turned 2.

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In the Night Garden Live

This week we went to see In the Night Garden Live, a programme that Cora had watched most nights right up until I booked the tickets at which point she found Disney films and nursery rhymes (especially Sleeping Bunnies) on YouTube, so I was a little worried that she wouldn’t enjoy it when we got there.

We went to see it in Blackheath, which when I booked the tickets I thought we would get the train into London and then the tube across to Blackheath. I’d toyed between seeing it in Blackheath or seeing it in Richmond and driving, but I decided I thought the train would be easier. In my lackadaisical way I didn’t really research how long it would take and to be honest I think I thought I would book the 2 pm showing and have plenty of time to get there and grab a bit of lunch. Somewhere between thinking this and booking the tickets I changed my mind about which showing we would go to, I think probably because of the price and we ended up at the 12.00 showing. 2 days before we were due to go I checked out the train times and realised that we would need to get the train before peak time finished and trying to take 2 buggies into central London at that time would have been a nightmare, going any later we would have been cutting it really fine, so I decided to drive.

 

Driving was actually really straight forward and the venue was signposted really well from the motorway. As you reach the venue you can see where you need to go, car parking was easy and was free although you can only stay there for 3 hours to allow people seeing the later shows to park safely. There are some very cheerful parking attendees (some would say too cheerful) in the car park, helping you park and stating the obvious, “please drive slowly there are a lot of toddlers”. Yes, thank you I’d never have known that, I have 2 in the back of my car, it’s a children’s programme I don’t think anyone there will be there if they don’t have children and to be fair I would be worried if they were!

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Getting into the showdome was easy, there was a small queue but given there are only about 300 seats per show it didn’t take long at all to get in. All of the staff were really helpful, there was no rushing at any time you could take as long as you needed and everything was available from one till, which was fantastic, and I assume if you ordered a goody bag you would also be able to pick it up there. You could buy all your Night Garden goodies as well as any food and drink you wanted at the same time. My only complaint is that on the website it’s insinuated there would be food there, actually there were only snacks and going to the 12.00 show with two toddlers requires proper food.

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Once you are in the showdome everything is really well signposted and there is plenty of staff to show you were to go, it’s not a huge venue so it’s really easy to find your way. We sat on the very back row and our view was still fabulous and we had an unobstructed view of the stage. The stage and its surroundings are everything you would expect them to be, with lots to look at while we waited. Including our fabulous wands which looked great in the low light of the stage area.

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The show itself was as you would expect as a grown up, like the programme is, with a mixture of people in costumes and puppets on the stage. While I understand why they did that given the size difference between the characters when you see them on the telly, actually I am not sure the toddlers would have cared if they had all been big characters. All the same both toddlers were riveted and I spent most of the show trying to stop Cora from trying to get to the stage to give Igglepiggle and Oopsie daisy a cuddle. I needn’t have worried about whether or not she was going to enjoy it, she loved it!

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We had pre-booked to meet Igglepiggle after the show and by that time we had received a text message telling us how long our wait time was and that our name would be called when it was our turn to go meet him, so no need to queue. The time you meet the character is based on when you booked not how quickly you got out of the stage area, which is fantastic when you have little ones. Time to go to the toilet, grab a drink and even have a go on Igglepiggle’s boat.

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Another text came and it was our turn to meet Igglepiggle, so after waiting a few short minutes whilst the person in front of us saw him, we went in and Oscar, Cora’s friend, was straight in to give him a cuddle. Cora was very excited to meet him, which I had been a bit nervous about as she hadn’t been that crazy about meeting Santa at Christmas. However she was fine although a little more reluctant to give him a cuddle, she was totally happy to sit on his knee however and have her photo taken, and she did give him a cuddle before we said goodbye.

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5 minutes later and we were looking at our photos which I have to say are fabulous, 1 came free with the meet and greet and then we bought another one so we had one each. At this point I gave in to toddler pressure by getting Cora a cuddly Igglepiggle, after all it is her birthday at the end of the month, oh and a water bottle as I had a mummy fail and did not bring an appropriate cup. They didn’t have sports bottles there and although Cora can drink from a normal bottle it’s quite difficult for a not quite 2 year old.

Goodies in hand we headed back to the car with two very sleepy toddlers, one who was asleep within 5 minutes of leaving and the other about 10 minutes later, we headed home having had a great day out and with two very happy toddlers.

My top five tips before you go to Disneyland Paris

Book your restaurants before you go

Particularly if you are going out of season as some of the restaurants may be closed as they are being refurbished for the summer high season. You can book your restaurants up to 2 months in advance although, we were told the wrong information when we did try to book, so my advice would be if you do get told that hang up and ring back and talk to another adviser. You can find a list of all the restaurants on the Disneyland Paris website or if you have a compatible phone you can download the app (sadly there is still no app for a Windows phone). The number to call to book all your restaurants is +33 01 60 30 40 50

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Book Character Dining

The best place to meet the characters is to have a meal with the characters, there are 2 places in Disneyland Paris where you can dine with the characters Café Mickey Inventions and Auberge de Cendrillon. Café Mickey is included on plus and premium meal plans for lunch and dinner but Inventions and Auberge de Cendrillon are only available on the premium meal plan. You can pay to eat in all restaurants on top of your meal plan or if you don’t have one. In Café Mickey you can also have breakfast with the characters but that has an additional charge to your meal plan. You can meet Mickey and his friends in Café Mickey and three of the princesses, a prince, and Cinderella’s mice in Auberge de Cendrillon. The number to call to book all your character dining is +33 01 60 30 40 50

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Find out the face value of your meal plan

You can upgrade your meal plan whilst you are there which means that you pay the difference between the face value of your meal plan and the next meal plan up (if you have the top of the range meal plan ignore this bit of advice). The difference isn’t however the difference between the prices on the menu, generally the menu price if you were going to buy that menu is more than the value of the meal plan. In most cases it doesn’t state the face value on the meal plan. The menus don’t change so if for some reason like us you end up in the same restaurant two nights in a row you might want to do this, and you can also use your meal plan vouchers in some of the fast food restaurants in the park should you choose to, so knowing the face value might be useful.

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Book your visit to see the princesses

The princess pavilion is the only character meet that you have to book in advance all the rest you just turn up and queue, so if you have a child or you love the princesses then I would definitely advise that you book in advance, particularly if you are only there for 3 days. You can queue up for a time to see the princesses at the pavilion but you need to be there as the park opens and there is generally a long wait to get a time, definitely a job for just one of you whilst the other one takes goes around the park. If you are staying in a Disney Hotel and you have extra magic hours the queuing starts from 9am, so if you are staying outside the resort I would recommend booking in advance.

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Plan your trip
The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to plan your trip before you go, work out exactly what you want to do and have a bit of an itinerary, if you are only going for a few days it’s very easy to miss out on all the things you wanted to see. You can download the park map and the weekly programme before you go, see what shows you want to see, decide where you want to eat and plan your trip around that. If you want to queue up to meet the characters you need to leave time in your day for that too and remember that depending on the time of year you go will depend on the time the park closes. There are ways to jump the queues like fast passes and extra magic hours.

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There are 2 types of fast pass, the normal one which allows you to jump the queue at certain times of the day and then the VIP pass which allows you to jump the queue at any time of day. Although fast pass is great, sometimes that queue is longer than the normal queue, so check out the times before you buy.

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There is also a system for parents where if you want to go on one of the big rides not suitable for your little ones, it’s called babyswitch, it allows you to only queue once for the ride, one of you goes on it whilst the other one waits in the queue, when the first one of you has finished the ride you switch without having to queue again.

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Turning 40 in Disneyland Paris – Walt Disney Studios

The celebrations continued the day after my birthday too, starting with breakfast at café Mickey, got to love a bit of character dining! Now on your meal plan you can have lunch or dinner without having to pay extra, but to have breakfast unfortunately that’s not the case, it’s an extra €17 per person. Now I am not sure we would have paid had it not been my birthday but Gareth was given the wrong information when he phoned to book and by the time he phoned back it was the only character dining available, and when you’re 40 and in Disney you have to have character dining.

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It was fabulous, breakfast was fabulous and we got to meet Mickey, Goofy, Pluto and Chip ‘n’ Dale. Both the girls were fine with Goofy who we met 1st making Jayney’s day as he is her absolute favourite Disney character. But after that I think they were a little unsure and actually Cora cried if they went anywhere near her. By the time Mickey came round however she was ok if her was near her but not touching her, which considering how much she loves Mickey Mouse and how excited she was the day before when we were at the parade I was a bit surprised.

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After breakfast we headed to Walt Disney Studios, it’s a smaller park than the DisneyLand Park but there is still loads to do. We started off on the Lot Tour, a tram ride behind the scenes, which was great, although we did discover that Cora doesn’t like fire at all, and got a little bit wet in the process. We moved on to some of the other rides like the slinky dog ride which the girls both loved, in fact I don’t think we took them in a ride they didn’t like to be honest. However if you get motion sickness all the little people rides go round and round so they are not great for that, lots of watching for the mummies and daddies went on most of the rides, but that’s ok.

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After a morning of rides and wandering round we found a rather lovely buffet restaurant, which we could have used our meal plan for but we decided against it, so much choice of yummy food and the girls could have their own food instead of having to have what we ate, I think this was their best meal if I am honest, I certainly enjoyed it.

We went to a couple of shows whilst we were in the park too, the first being about how film started which was really very clever and had the girls enthralled and the second being the car stunt show with Lightning McQueen, which I have to say was amazing, really really well done and the girls loved it although Lexi was so tired by the time we went there that she managed to go to sleep towards the end of the show proving that babies really do sleep anywhere. There was a few fire explosions in it though reconfirming that Cora really doesn’t like fire at all.

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With both the girls asleep we had a bit of a wander around the park and the others wanted to go on the Tower of Terror, being pregnant at Disney doesn’t lend itself well to going in those big rides so I said I’d stay with the sleeping babies since the ride time sign said 15 minutes. It lied – an hour later they returned, by which time I still had two sleeping babies, no internet and it was really quite cold by then. I really should have though about it better and positioned myself in one of the cafes with a hot drink but by the time I realised they were going to be longer than they said I struggled to navigate two buggies!

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The girls had a really good sleep and we wondered around the park for a bit longer then headed back to the Disneyland Park, ready for the fireworks, we were a little bit early so we headed for our afternoon snack, at which point both girls woke up and we had donuts and ice cream. Then we headed to the castle to see another show, which I forget the name of but the cast of Mary Poppins performed most of the songs from the film dressed in brightly coloured Spring costumes, it was pretty good, not as good as the show yesterday but still pretty good.

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The fireworks were amazing, they are on at the closing of the park, which for us was perfect as that was 20.00 but at the weekend the park doesn’t close till 22.00 which is probably a little bit late for a toddler. You do have to go and find a good spot from about 19.30 which can be frustrating for the toddlers so snack bag in hand we managed to keep them entertained while we waited. The fireworks last about half an hour and they are worth going to, both girls were totally memorised by them, music light and fireworks in the sky, what could be better.

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A fabulous day was had by all and we headed back to our hotel with lots of Disney goodies and 2 very tired but happy little girls and to be fair 4 very tired adults too.