A Typical Balance Bike Ride


Dear Jen: This is the email that I never got to write to you.

Dear Jen,

This is the email that I never got to write to you. Last week it was your birthday, and that means it has been two years since you died. You weren’t a beating around the bush type of person; you called a spade a spade, and a wanker a wanker. So you haven’t passed on, you have died.

I didn’t get to see you in your last year. You got cancer in London, and I got pregnant with twins in New Jersey. Both events consumed us wholly, and left us pretty much immobile. But we kept emailing, and I think you may have liked being able to compartmentalize some of the friends in your life. I know I do. The arms reach of an email to someone you don’t see regularly but still care about.

Jen, the last time I saw you was October 2010. I was over in London still buzzing from quitting my job that summer (and happy to recount the straw that broke me), and in the final year of my degree. You were in the midst of battling your viva, and resubmitting your PhD thesis. We were both full of plans. You and Mark were doing up a house to flip. You had your usual grand travel plans which you always followed through on. We tubed it down to Richmond to meet our friend Gee (and her baby) for lunch.

We obviously ate at Wagamama because I made everyone I met in London eat at Wagamama, and I ordered the same meal every time: chicken katsu curry. You ate something veggie. You always ate something veggie because you’d sworn off meat as a teen when you wanted to save the world. (I fucking loved you for that answer when anyone ever asked you why you didn’t eat meat it was so you.)

It was a good lunch. Gee’s baby cried a lot, and Gee was tired but happy. Now, I totally get what Gee was going through, and she was an Amazonian for coming out to meet us for lunch.

We got the tube back together, and as usual I rode further on down the line to your stop and dog legged back. I always did that when I came over for a visit. I always missed my stop because I wanted to spend more time with you.

The next time I was over was in May 2011 to sit my exams, and you were too sick to leave your house. So it was just Gee and I (plus her baby) who met for lunch in Chinatown. You didn’t know what was wrong with you. Gee and I talked about it over lunch. Something gastric. Waiting on further tests and a diagnosis. I offered to come to you but you weren’t up to it. I wonder why I didn’t push harder but was busy with finals, and you had a laid back way of making everything not a big deal. You always wanted to put your friends at ease.

I can’t bring myself to read the emails from later that year. They were the beginning of your end. I remember waking up and checking my phone (as is my habit), and lying in bed sobbing. I probably texted Gee or she texted me to make sure I’d seen the email. You’d also told Richard (our old boss and one of the best people out there) in the same email. There were a lot of emails and texts, and crying. The girls were born in the October of that year, and you kept emailing. You bought me a diaper genie because you couldn’t get me a real one. Jen, I’d have given you my three wishes in a heartbeat if I could.

We came over as a family in February 2012 for my brother’s wedding. I was so fucking tired with four-month-old twins. It’s a blur, but we wanted to see you and we made plans to but you weren’t up to making it, and even right up to the wire you had a laid back way of not making a big deal of it. We had lunch with Richard and Jane, and Gee and her family, and we talked about you and our love for you.

In the spring we were in a mall (Short Hills Mall for New Jersey millionaires and tired parents who want a nice space to push a stroller around), and I checked my phone and read the email from Richard. He broke the news, and I cried. But because of Zoey and Nomi I had to rein myself in and get back to functioning.

It’s taken me two years to sit down and write this because I have small children who need everything from me, and there’s not much left at the end of the day. But I’m writing now and that’s what’s important.

We met in the summer of 1999 at Sea Container House when I joined you, Gee and Richard (our glorious leader) in the heady world of container leasing. You’d graduated from Manchester a year or two ahead of me so we may have waited for a bus together on Oxford Road or jostled for drinks at Jabez. Had we met and chatted back then I think we’d have hit it off. You with your dreadlocks and dungarees, and me with my pink hair and ripped jeans. Nice middle class girls. We both remembered the girl who walked bare foot around campus, and it was always good to talk about student days in Manchester.

But we met in an office that had originally been built as a hotel so was rather grand in an old fashioned way, we were dressed in office casual with nose stud and extra earrings removed. You, me and Gee livin’ la vida loca for container leasing. We were likened to The Witches of Eastwick as there weren’t that many of us under fifty let alone under thirty in the company. We may not have been as polished as the Orient Express gals on the other side of the floor: more Top Shop than Karen Millen but we had fun. We had laugh after laugh, drank cup of tea after cup of tea (decaf for you from your own stash), and had a fabulous view of the river from our desks. We all called our mums at 5pm, and went home at 5:30pm. We got to go to container balls at posh hotels, and danced the night away to bands covering The B-52s. We screamed “LOVE SHACK” and threw our arms in the air. The food at those balls was always awful, but the bands and the dancing were the best.

Like all good things the spell of 20ft and 40ft boxes broke, and we all went our separate ways but always staying in touch and meeting up when I was over. I miss your emails, Jen. I miss your humour and your humanity. I miss planning to see you in London and getting to talk optimistically about the future. I miss that I am no longer part of a container triumvirate (there were three reefer tanks in the fleet we informally named after ourselves).

You were one of the coolest, bravest and funniest people I have ever known. You said fuck it and went traveling, and then said fuck it again and went back to containers when you went back to university to get your MA.

I will re-read your emails because I want to relive your adventures, and hear your voice in my head again. Your soul is in my heart, Jen. I’ll take you everywhere with me.

Much love,


Zoey riding balance bike

It’s only been 6 weeks since Zoey and Naomi got their balance bikes. And already Zoey is gliding with both feet up in the air for fairly long period of time.


Peeing in the loo is the new orange

No one told me that toddlers are really proud of their poos, and want to see their poos and their sibling’s poos. And the marks the poo made in their knickers.

“Me made it in me bum!”

Yes, yes you did but can you please deposit it in the loo or potty, and not in your knickers, sweetheart.

A month into potty training (cold turkey method: knickers during the day, & pull-ups only at night & when out on day trips), and we have the pees taking care of themselves. All good on the pee front. Not that it wasn’t a fun ride with wet legs, socks, floors, sofas, rugs, beds, climbing frames, mummy and Crocs. (Crocs incidentally are the best potty training shoe.)

Zoey and Nomi walked very different paths to pull-up freedom (or pee-dom). Both equally excited about the the prospect of knickers but it clicked into place faster with Nomi. Within a week Nomi was getting most of her pees in the loo or potty, and telling us when she needed to pee and stopping playing to go pee by herself. Not that it’s a race but it’s actually helped having Nomi peeing as an example to Zoey. She is our pee-ioneer. One kid happy to sit on the potty meant Zoey would follow suit and try to pee.

Zoey is our reluctant pee-er. The girl has a bladder the size of Wales. After the first few days of wet legs and socks she started to hold it in. She was miserable. I was miserable as she wanted to be held all the time when she was refusing to pee, and this generally ended with her peeing all over me. The best time was the day the plumber was in to move our washer and plumb it in (you can tell how done with pull-ups I was as I started potty training without a washing machine), and she clung to me like a spider monkey. She did her overnight pee at 9:30am all over me and the sofa. She then waited until I was writing a check for the plumber to start peeing on me after needing to go for a good few hours.

The thing about potty training is that it’s like opening Pandora’s box – once you start you can’t go back to how things were. You need to keep going forward, and bring consistent for everyone’s sake.

I got really good at reading Zoey’s body language. Though you don’t need to be Dr. Cal Lightman (still smarting from that cancelation) to read toddler “micro expressions”. Small child doing the pee dance and/or clutching her bum was a dead give away. Many times we’d tell her that if she pee’d she’d feel better etc she had to come to that conclusion all by herself.

And by gum after three weeks it all fell into place. Suddenly she is bounding out of bed to pee first thing in the morning, and telling us when she needs to pee, and peeing in the travel potty in the back of the car when we are out and about.

Potty training is not so much about how to use a potty or loo but learning to listen to your body, and get use to stopping playing to go pee. It just takes time. A lot of time in a safe environment.

Some thoughts:

- All potty training rewards go to the primary care giver. You are the one cleaning up the pee and poo so you need little treats to arrive from Amazon as the weeks progress.
- Keep a sense of humor. There was one morning where the girls poo’d in their knickers five times. Every time I turned my back someone was lurking in a corner or holding onto a door frame to grunt out a poo.
- Despite what the internets say you can totally potty train twins by yourself. Of course you fraking can. Yes, there will be times where everyone is peeing on the floor at the same time but it’s a little bonding experience. Zoey and Nomi are really good at going to get each other new knickers, socks & leggings when needed.
- All my friends with older kids said it would be easier for me to potty train as we’re home most of the week, and they were right. Keeping them in knickers for a whole day rather than chopping and changing between knickers and pull-ups makes it so much easier for them to get it.

I’m hopeful that over the next few weeks they’ll stop pooing in their knickers, and when our stash of pull-ups runs out they’ll be doing day trips in knickers (with the travel potties close at hand).

It’s really not as bad as you think it’s going to be.


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