The journey northwards 

Like Santa, I keep a list of family and friends I want to see more of on our trips over, especially as we can break our journey from London to Edinburgh. Now I’m not going on the record to say that I have a naughty and a nice list like Santa but if you enjoy listening to Hamilton the Musical daily or have a park with a zip line then there’s a good chance we’ll be at your door in 2017. 

On this trip a friend from university hosted us overnight and  some of our uni friends and their families. A most excellent time was had. I could never have had such a great catch up without my friends hospitality. Zoey and Nomi had a blast – lots of kids, different toys, Dolphins Tale, sandwiches without crusts and a zip line in the park *cough cough*. 

The next day we headed off on our epic train journeys to go stay with one of my aunts. We had to change trains THREE times. THREE TIMES. Three changes was a pain in the ass with the luggage. Thankfully I got help. People were very helpful when they saw me traveling solo with luggage and two Pingus. I was also VERY vocal to Z & N about my plan to get us on and off trains. “I’ll get you two off first and then I’ll get the luggage. This is the trains last stop so we have time. Don’t worry.” When you’ve repeated that loudly three or four times to your kids everyone in the carriage knows your plan and someone steps up to help. 

We survived the train trips and got to my aunt’s before her (as ironically she too was coming up from the south). We had a chance to settle in and the girls went a bit wild in Tescos. I don’t think anyone had seen two kids more excited about toothbrushes with suckers on them! The cashier let them scan their own items which just added to their levels of excitement. 

We had a great stay at my aunt’s. It gave us a chance to recover from the trains and rally for our final leg in Edinburgh. 

Here’s more out of order photos 🙂 

Red squirrel! 

On the train Nomi invented a game “Flush or super flush”. If a woman walked by it was a one arm rest flush and if a man a double arm rest super flush. 

There is a fantastic nature park near by aunt’s with a streams, hides and paths. Well worth a visit if you are in the area. 

When we arrived off the train Nomi and Zoey clocked the statue and shouted “pirate fairy angel!” 

And then we trotted off to Edinburgh for the final leg. 



We spent three weeks in London with my dad and step-mum in February. My dad has advanced cancer and can’t travel so the primary purpose of our trip over was to see him and give a morale boost as he flamed out of chemo in January.

I didn’t realize how stressed and worried I was about him until I came home and physically felt lighter. When we got there he was recovering very slowly but us all just being there and hanging out fast tracked things. He went from laying on the sofa like a bald Bond villain to pottering in the kitchen and managed a few days out.

We didn’t do as much in London as I thought we might but we did a lot. It was a really good trip and much needed. (And it only took two weeks for Z & N to relax enough to let my dad cook for them!)

So, these photos are out of order and I’m doing this on my phone so I think we can all live with that.

We had a few solo days out in London mainly to the London aquarium with my little Octonauts. We got to feed rays and watch sharks. It was pretty good but no cafe.

 We live in a typical suburban neighborhood which means you need a car to get anywhere. Sure you could walk 20 mins to get to the strip mall but do you really want to.

My dad lives a short block away from a high street with cafes and shops. It was fun being able to walk to lunch or run errands. Some people like to vacation near the beach we like to be steps away from really good jam donuts.

We took advantage of all the south London highlights. We checked out local parks trying to find a really fast slide (found one), fed the ducks and did trolley drifting around IKEA.


Told you we went back to the Rays. Fantastic to watch.

And the sharks.

And the ducks.

We ate cake in lots of cafes. We like a nice cafe.

My dad indulged the girls and got them electric quad bikes. They did not go very fast.

One night we hauled our collective asses to the Chiswick house light festival. Which was magical and exhausting for all of us.


They wouldn’t stand still for a photo. This one eating sandwiches was the best I could get. It was really late for them – we got there after 5pm and walked for over an hour. It was magical though.


My dad betting away one morning. Well enough to sit at the table and getting his mobility back.

Another cafe! This was at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. We did a day trip to see one of my cousins and this museum is fab. It was practically empty on Saturday morning. The girls practiced their map reading to get us around and a fantastic shop and cafe in the basement.

Burying my dad with cushions.

My dad wakes early and is at his best at 6am like us. So the mornings were loud and fun.

Flash forward to teenage Nomi here. Totally get it we all missed our car and living in a bungalow (having to climb stairs to pee got old quick).

Lots of family came to visit us. Aunts and cousins spread over many days. It was all good. Nomi and Zoey got lots of LOUD rowdy aunt time which is what we all need!

Testimont to my dad accepting help he went around Kew Gardens in a wheel chair.

Girls decorating a fancy birthday cake for one of my cousins.

Took the great aunts to meet the ducks.

And then three weeks were gone and we were off on our next adventure leaving behind fridge magnets and stickers everywhere.

Zen and the art of traveling with four year olds 

Step 1: Never forget that you are not on vacation. 

It’s an endurance test, you need to keep everyone on an even keel and the prize is keeping everyone on an even keel (doh!). Think the Food Network show where they have to cook without proper kitchen equipment. You are parenting in the wild and dealing with unfamiliar everything but trying to puppet master everything to be normal. 

Step 2: You will do a fraction of what you want to do

Write a list of everyone you want to see and things you want to do. Half it, then half it again. Then strike everyone off your list that won’t come to you. Then panic that family and friends will get upset that you don’t have time to see everyone when it appears that you are “under scheduled”. Then remember that you can count on one hand the number of family and friends who have visited you in the ten plus years you lived abroad and half the list again. 

Step 3: You will spin plates and move mountains to keep mealtimes, TV time & bedtime consistent with home 

Small children like routine and consistency. Even if the majority of their regular day is unstructured play they like to know that food will appear at predictable intervals, and that if they get a chunk of screen time after lunch that they can still get that wherever they are. So you’ll spend your vacation menu planning and cooking. 

Step 4: Everyone needs to stay hydrated and you need lots of coffee 

When in doubt find a cafe. Works every time or at least delays everyone’s melt down. 

Step 5: Everyone needs a stipend  (especially four year olds) 

It doesn’t have to be much just a pound or two for each museum or place of interest you hit that has a gift shop. Enough so that the children can buy something small to help remember the trip and you know hold their shit together when they are somewhere that they didn’t choose to be (regardless of how cool the place is). 

And you need a reward for getting through the vacation because you won’t actually get to browse or shop at any of the gift shops to you go to. 

Step 6. You will all get sick

And then you’ll end up doing even less. 

Sunscreen in March 

The weather has gone crazy but you know climate change is just a theory, right. It’s March and we are in sun hats and the shade tent needed to go up, but you know it’s perfectly normal. 

The daffodils in the garden haven’t bloomed yet, they too are confused. I’m itching to get to Home Depot to “landscape” the garden. After digging most of the plants up last year it’s time to plant. 

Zoey is on the mend. She’s still coughing, and has low energy but she was well enough for imaginative play with Nomi. Hurrah! Nomi was missing her play mate. 

I came out of the shower to find them stuffed into pillowcases (still with the pillows in them) crawling on the floor as mermaids. The power of a pillowcase! Who needs an actual costume. 

Everyone was much happier today, and no one feel asleep before dinner. So that’s jetlag tackled just before day light savings. 

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