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. 

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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. 

Flying with small children: a blurry recap 

  

This is a photo of me arriving in Edinburgh after the overnight flight with the Pingus. My mum sent it with the caption “No rush, really?” – oh she’s a card that one. 

Yes rush because Zoey hadn’t peed since New Jersey, so no flat white for me in the airport. Quick but loving hugs and into the cab to the bathroom at granny pingu’s! 

But let’s talk traveling, specifically flying solo, with small kids so we’ll rewind +10 hours. 

LOVE IT. 

LOVE IT. 

LOVE IT. 

It was exhausting as the girls wanted 100% of my attention to talk about everything they were seeing, but hearts for eyes people the whole experience rocked. 

They loved everything about the airport, particularly the vehicles that drove around inside. 

“Inside vehicles, mummy! You didn’t know there would be cars in here!” 

And the moving walkway. And the yogurt we bought and ate sitting on the floor waiting to board. And sitting on the plane. 

It was just brilliant talking about everything over and over again. They talked until they passed out (Zoey was asleep by Maine and Nomi hung on till Nova Scotia). 

I barely needed any of the surprises of packed. Which was good as I could eek them out over our many train trips. On the plane the girls played with new small cars, play dough and we read new books (“I Stink!” & “I’m Dirty!” by Kate Mcmullan). Since they needed to sleep I kept the seat back TV screen set to the map. But, really they just wanted to talk about all the things. 

My two mistakes were food related. I woke them up for breakfast (they rejected all airplane food), and I should have packed even more snacks and real food. We had just enough but any delays would have pushed us over, or the kids would have had to eat airplane “food”. 

Museums From Our Roadtrip Vacation

The days are long gone of Alex and I setting our own agenda. The Cylonettes run the show, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. (Did you know that Naomi means ‘must sleep in the big bed’, and Zoey ‘awake at first light’. No, I didn’t either otherwise I’d have called them something like ‘Sleeps Late’ and ‘Likes To Sleep Alone’.)

The heat and humidity were pretty extreme when we were down in Raleigh so there wasn’t much of a chance to go for walks, and explore the city. That was a shame as I love nothing more than an aimless wander around to soak up the atmosphere but that of course was pre-Cylonette, and now everything needs thought out. We can’t just wing it. (Okay, we can but there is a strong chance that it will end in tears, and the stress is just not worth it.)

We stuck to seeing museums, and that kept everyone cool (thanks to the AC) and happy. I love museums, especially art museums with nice cafes (and restaurants), wifi and a decent permanent collection. As long as we feed the girls and ourselves when we first get to the museum the girls will tolerate being wheeled and carried around for an hour or so. Bliss.

On the drive down from New Jersey we stopped at Annapolis (cue silly photos) and Virginia Museum of Fine Art which is one of the best art museums I’ve ever been to (we loved it so much we stopped there again on the way back) .

In the Navy

We thought about enlisting Zoey whilst she slept

VMFA slays, and a visit here was far more enjoyable than the Met or even the Lourve. Oh yes! Firstly, it has a great collection, and it’s so large (with automatic sliding Star Trek doors) that it was easy to manoeuvre the stroller.  Secondly, the cafe and restaurant are excellent. We had tasty, relaxing meals in both, and the staff were super friendly with the girls. And finally, a kick ass shop (I don’t get out much so it’s nice to look at pretty things). I would really love to come back when the girls are older, and with my mum (who also appreciates a nicely laid out museum with good food).

Relaxing lunch

Post lunch play

Cylonette on the loose

Taking in the ART (whilst checking Twitter)

VMFA grounds (too hot to explore but gorg!)

In Raleigh actual we went around the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the adjacent National Research Center (which has real scientists working away on show just like in Jurassic Park), and the North Carolina Museum of Art (though they don’t mention it on the website there is a little cafe there). All three NC museums were great. The science ones were a little more crowded as it is the school holidays but it still was fairly easy to wander around.

“To really appreciate ART one must be out of the stroller” Naomi

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