week 10: sickness and homesickness

little to write home about this week as panda and i continued to feel ghastly for most of it.  we survived on soup, tea, ice-cream and afternoon naps.  snuggling was also plentiful.  it was a hard week particularly since panda had plenty of energy reserves whilst i had nada!  we don’t normally watch tv at home, but this week thomas the tank engine episodes took over some parental responsibilities.

to add to our stellar start to the week,  being sick made me feel incredibly homesick.  i yearned for sunshine and warmth.  i missed australia, our friends, our old place, our backyard and the mornings we would wake up and do this:

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i don’t know what it is about sickness, but it makes me crave familiarity.  and london’s still a little while away from being familiar.

i am happy to report that by the week’s end, our health began improving and panda and i were well on the road to recovery.  we headed over to regents park to take in some sun after a whole week at home:

we spotted a family of ducks:

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panda wasted no time in picking flowers,

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playing hide-and-seek,

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and throwing pebbles in ponds.

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after all that work, a cafe stop was in order:

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it felt so good to be out enjoying london again.

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and so it goes.

week 9: friendship and chocolate cake

bright eyed and bushy tailed, panda headed back to school this week. he looked something like this:

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not really. i just wanted to include a picture of a squirrel. i think they’re just so cute, don’t you? i still squeal with excitement every time i see one – a sure sign that despite having been in london for half a year already, i am still very much a tourist. true Londoners recognised that they’re a bit of a pest…

but i digress.

here’s what panda really looks like when he’s bright eye’d and bushy tailed:

DSC_0015you can’t compete with that.  not even if you’re a real squirrel.

panda had an extra spring in his step on the first day back at school because after one very long week, he would finally get to play with his friend elliott, who had been away during the school break.  elliott has become a very important person in panda’s life.  he started school not long before panda, is five days older than him and loves trains and dinosaurs.  they have been lifelong chums ever since panda started school.  they play, talk, share food, agree, disagree and look after each other like two old comrades! those who know them marvel at how real their friendship is.  how very blessed they are to have found each other.

this week, panda and elliott came together to bake a chocolate cake (from panda’s fave cook book) for Ayyam-i-Ha, an important celebration for Elliott’s family who are members of the Baha’i faith. panda and i learned that this is a time of giving and serving friends and about thinking of how each of us can bring happiness into the lives of others. it is a privilege to see how other families celebrate faith and to also be part of that celebration.

once all the cake ingredients were set, the boys each poured, added and mixed their cakes independently and with great encouragement from each other.  they were super happy with what they had created, not least because there was a bowl and spoon to lick at the end.

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later on, they each shared their cakes with their neighbours.  this simple act of kindness brought so much joy to our neighbours.  and to us too.

mid-week, i had a night out with some of the mamas from panda’s school.  delicious food and delightful conversation.  night outs are such a pleasure.

the end of the week was nothing but gross because the sickness bug hit panda and i hard.  poor us!  we had terrible fevers and sore throats and runny noses and sore bellies.  despite all this, panda still managed to find a little tub of happiness:

“mama, can we have some ice-cream?”

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i said “yes” every time he asked because i was feeling like death and quite frankly wasn’t sure he’d get anything else to eat that day. poor panda! thank goodness tony stocked our fridge with soup (which i managed to heat up) and would come home as soon as he could every night to look after us. he is a real superhero.

so no weekend outings to write about as we ended the week with sickness.  unfortunate indeed but it did remind us of how thankful we should feel every morning we wake up alive and healthy.

and so it goes xx

week 8: half term and ordinary happenings

panda had a break from school this week.  the mornings had a ‘sunday morning’ feel to them – slow, calm and generally easy.  though a moment of solitude becomes a little harder to come by during holiday weeks, i do relish the time panda and i have together, when we have no definite commitments and no place we need to be by a certain time.  it becomes so much easier to live in the moment because panda has so much more opportunity to set the pace of the day.

the novelty of a slow morning does eventually wear off on the almost-three-year-old boy.  curling up on the couch with a book and cup of coffee for the rest of the day wasn’t panda’s idea of a fulfilling day.  thankfully, london has so much to offer children, especially during half terms, so after a little google here, and a little planning there:

we headed to the Imagine Children’s Festival at the Southbank Centre.  There was outdoor play in pink caves,

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storytime in a giant bed,

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a children’s orchestra practicing their tunes,

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(they didn’t always get it right…)

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drawing on walls,

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and strolling along the southbank, breathing in the cold air and admiring the views of this incredible city.  i don’t think we will ever stop admiring them.

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we had some beautiful weather towards the end of the week and took advantage of it by visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.  walking a small fraction of the one hundred and twenty-one hectares, tony and i “oo’d” and “ah’d” (a technical phrase) at the glorious gardens and glasshouses whilst panda had a completely sensorial experience with nature.  it was simply super duper (a technical term).

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treetop walk:

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dark clouds threatened the day with rain but luckily never followed through with the threat!

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Kew Palace – we only saw it from the outside this time.  isn’t it grand!

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sticks, flowers, grass, earth – a sensorial experience all round.

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and who could resist a slide (though at first, i don’t think panda knew how fast he would slide – the face says it all…)

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the rest of the week was filled with ordinary little happenings (my favourite kind of happenings):

shopping at our local farmers market,

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lunch dates,

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panda found a tunnel for his trains, built tracks, and played and played

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and we went for walks and found bright colours and “little balls”.

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a lovely young lady also babysat for us this week and tony and i went out for dinner with friends. the most exciting thing about this (apart from the great company of course) was the dressing up part – so much joy in putting on a dress, doing my hair and putting on some red lipstick!

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writing about how much we enjoy these ordinary moments reminds me of this beautiful quote i read not too long ago on parent educator Janet Lansbury’s facebook fan page.  it’s from William Martin’s book The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents:

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.” 

i hope i can do this for panda.

and so it goes x

week 7: living, loving and Greenwich

i am writing this post almost a month late!  a week and a half of sickness will cause such things to happen.  especially if you’re the “man flu” type of sick patient (which i ashamedly admit, I am).  not to worry.  i am once again healthy and have a renewed appreciation for good health.

now, to recall what we got up to this week:

panda and i visited the  Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood.  there were stories, singing, dancing and crafts all of which panda loved and jumped straight into.  he was a little hesitant of the puppet story  (“puppets are not real mama, they can’t come into our house”).  mmmm, not sure from where this uneasiness stems but he was willing to watch the puppet story once he was able to touch one of the puppets.

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twice this week, panda helped with dinner preparations.  he isn’t always keen on helping prepare dinner, he’s usually pretty wrapped up in his own work around that time, so it was a welcome surprise to have his help!

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we love love and whilst we are big believers in love being celebrated everyday, we’re also big fans of doing something extra special on valentines day.  this year, alexander made some salt dough love hearts for all his school friends.  there are so many recipes for these on pinterest (we ended up using this one).  it was a great activity as panda could do most of it himself with minimal assistance.  we will definitely do more of this again.

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i asked panda who he was going to give his first heart to and he replied “ana”.  ah bless, he was talking about me.  or so i thought:

me:  that’s so kind panda, but please call me mama.
panda: no, not you mama, anna, from school
me:  (pause…)  i’m sorry what?
panda: anna from the Children’s House
me:  oh…well…that’s very kind too (i said as my heart overreacted and broke a little).

tony walked through the door on valentines day and announced “i’ve brought you flowers”.  he then hands me two packets of flour.  he thinks its hilarious.  i admit it’s a little funny but really, i’m a little confused and not that impressed….i had hoped for tulips.  he then says “you’ll need them for what’s outside”.  i rush to open our front door and find this little beauty on our doorstep:

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i was ecstatic – i have wanted one of these for years and thanks to my loves (panda helped daddy choose), we now have one in our kitchen.

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i could go on and on about how awesome my husband is, but i think that deserves a post of its own.

for now, here’s what our weekend looked like:

we caught the district light rail for the first time to Greenwich.

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we stopped by the markets

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indulged in some dulce de leche churros,

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and strolled the neighbourhood to take in the sights:

Cutty Sark after a small downpour

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Greenwich park

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the Royal Observatory – prime meridian and telescopes!

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once we were back in our own neighbourhood, we decided to bring spring into our little apartment and headed to the nursery to buy some plants.

we love them:

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while choosing pots, panda found a cubby house to play in and then asked to buy it.  if only we had the backyard for it!  he wasn’t fussed, just pleased to have a play outdoors.  that’s living.

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and so it goes xx

week 6: the dinosaurs, the fall and Marylebone

the week begins with panda walking up the stairs saying, “don’t worry mama, i fixed it”.  a little concerning  since a) i wasn’t aware of anything that required fixing; and b) whenever panda uses the term “don’t worry” in a sentence, there is a high probability there is something to worry about. in this case, i couldn’t get a straight answer to what exactly he fixed and since it was only 7am and i still hadn’t had my coffee, i decided to hope for the best.  it served me well, i still don’t know what he fixed but all seems to be in order.

a good week followed:

we took a visit to the natural history museum after school.

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we were starving when we arrived so we headed to the cafe first.  once we found a table, took off all our coats and settled down ready to eat, panda announced he needed to use the toilet.  why is it that the need for toddlers to use the toilet when they’re out arises at the most inconvenient times?  of course, the toilets were on the level above us.  it was another 15 minutes before we finally started eating.

we headed to the museum, for the most part, to see the dinosaurs but we entered through the Volcanoes and Earthquakes gallery and it turned out panda was too fascinated with these exhibits to go anywhere else.  in the end, we saw only one dinosaur – the Diplodocus in the museums central hall.

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when he saw that i was standing, taking this photo (above), panda moved closer to the lady next to him and said “mama, sit here.  i make a space for you”.  he really looks after me.

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we went to the gift shop and panda chose to buy sunglasses.  he wore them all the way home, despite it being dark and overcast.  i have a feeling he misses the sun as much as we do.

on the afternoons we spent at home, we made decorations for our apartment:

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DSC_0157 to meet tony for lunch this week, we took a double-decker bus after school and sat on the top deck.  panda was hungry, and i had forgotten to pack a snack for him to tie him over until lunch.  when he asked me for food and i told him i hadn’t packed any, he broke down and cried “why, mama, why…..”, in a most Days of Our Lives, melodramatic kind of way.  my poor, hungry little guy.

as our stop approached and just as i thought things couldn’t get any more chaotic, panda and i stumbled down the stairs as we headed to the lower deck of the bus.  thankfully, we didn’t fall or hurt ourselves at all, it was just a very loud and painfully embarrassing stumble.  panda’s crying escalated to a wail, causing everyone around us to try to console him and make sure we were both ok.  everyone was so kind.  still, i just wanted to get the hell out of there.

when we finally hopped off the bus, i called tony to let him know we were on our way and panda asked to speak with him.  i hand him the phone and in his most serious voice he says “hello daddy? i fell down the stairs daddy and i was shocked.  goodbye.”  not as shocked as tony was when i took the phone back (“oh my god what happened?”).   might be time to have the “daddy doesn’t need to know about this” talk.

we ended the week with brunch and a stroll around Marylebone with a very special friend.  the kind of friend with whom you immediately pick up from where you left off, regardless of the time that’s lapsed between coffee/tea/tequila shots.

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week 5: first day of school, lunchtime rituals and the year of the horse

a momentous start to this week as Monday marked panda’s first day of school.  tony and I watched our little boy start Cycle One at our Montessori school where he will attend everyday for three hours a day.  we were so excited for him.  he started attending the school’s toddler program on his own in November last year and adapted to the classroom so well, his directress felt he was ready to transition into the Cycle One classroom.  she was right on the money.   panda absolutely loves going to school.  i hope this never changes.

when it’s not raining, he scoots to school.

when it’s not raining, he scoots to school.

the most demanding aspect of starting school is trying to leave the house on time.  the week we had to be up by 7am was the week panda decided he wanted to sleep in.  I had to wake him up almost everyday .  “but it’s dark outside mama, it’s still night time”.   I felt his pain, it really was so dark outside and all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed too.

but alas, we had to get moving, a concept panda had trouble adjusting to.  breakfast seemed to take twice as long, as did getting dressed, brushing teeth and putting shoes, coats, scarves, beanies and gloves on (i look forward to the day we can stop layering…).  i must have been hurrying around like a headless chook, so determined was I not to be late on the first day of school, that panda said to me, “mama, stop talking too fast!”  when we left the house, he said I was walking too fast.  he stopped as we approached the end of our street and said “look mama”.  i didn’t really want to look, I was too focused on getting to school on time.  “look”, he said again as he pointed to a tree stump, “the tree is gone”.

i hadn’t even noticed, and that’s when i stopped.  he was so excited because he had noticed that one of the trees on our street had been cut-down.  i can always rely on panda to bring me back to normal (at least our version of it), to find joy and excitement in the simple things.  so instead of a hurried and stressful walk to school, we walked like we had all the time in the world and talked about important things, like what could have happened to the tree (“why was it cut down?”, “where did it go?”).   we made it to school with five minutes to spare.

we took a photo on our way home

we took a photo on our way home

the Directress came out to greet us, she shook panda’s hand and welcomed him into the Children’s House.  he walked in with a huge smile on his face and gave me a quick “bye mama!”.  i was so happy for him despite the tug I felt in my heart.  our little boy was letting us go just that little bit more.  he is so brave.

i kissed and cuddled panda much more than usual this week (if that is possible), as much as he would let me, whenever I got the chance.  i told him he was delicious and I wanted to eat him up.  he would pull away from me and say “you can’t eat me mama, I am not food!”, before letting out great big belly laughs.  i really wish there was a way to bottle up that kind of magic.

kisses

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with my little boy

haha, you’re trying to eat me…

not another kiss!

not another kiss!

no, you can’t eat me!

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afternoon sleep in my arms

mid-week, we met tony for lunch.  it was such a treat we decided to do it every week.

we love daddy

we love daddy

on the weekend, the boys wanted to stay home on Saturday so I went out and bought panda some much needed winter clothes.  panda let me play dress ups with him and was even willing to pose for a couple of photos.

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.

on Sunday, we braved the crowds and headed to Trafalgar Square to celebrate Chinese New Year.

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happy Year of the Horse to you!

and so it goes xx

week 4: business as usual, important conversations, and the land down under

maybe it’s because i’ve started to put them to writing, but lately, the weeks seem to go by like days.   they roll into each other and suddenly, i’m browsing through photos and pasting together another week gone by.  as the old adage goes, time flies when you’re having fun.

quite the standard week for us really, drifting in and out of crazy town as we go about our lives with our little panda.

some of what panda loved doing this week:

marble runs are awesome

marble runs are awesome

so are rubbish trucks, especially when you get a wave

so are rubbish trucks, especially when you get a wave

games at the library

games at the library

making paper people with daddy

making paper people with daddy

panda told me who they are

panda told me who they are

panda said “this is the building where daddy works”

panda said “this is the building where daddy works”

many important conversations also took place.  panda is so bright and full of life, i wish i could tape everything he says and does.  here are a few of my favourites:

panda:“daddy, come here and play with my toys.  and bang things”.

panda:  (as he sees tony looking for his slippers) here, have my slippers daddy
tony: thanks mate but they don’t fit my feet (walks down the stairs)
panda: (with one slipper in his hand following tony down the stairs) wait daddy, let me try, let me try!

me: please put your gumboots on quickly, we have to get to school
panda: you need to be patient mama, you need to wait.  (these are my own words coming back to bite me)

me:  panda, did you know that i love you sooo much
panda:  mmm…i love going out!
me: i see…(awkward silence)

panda:  (as i’m dancing in the kitchen) mama, what are you doing?
me:  i’m dancing, can’t you tell?
panda: no

tough crowd .  i never thought i was that bad a dancer.

when he gets upset over something, he’s started saying “sorry mama, but i’m having a hard time”.  bless.  here’s hope that words will overcome meltdowns.

after buying panda a toothbrush shaped like a crocodile, all talk on the way home from the shops centred around this toothbrush:

panda:  the crocodile is not real mama
me: no, thankfully not.
panda: maybe it’s an alligator
me: yes, it could be
panda: it’s green
me: it sure is
panda:  i need to brush my teeth now.

we agreed it was probably not the best idea to brush teeth on the bus and he waited until we arrived home before brushing his teeth, probably about five times that afternoon.   not sure how much was brushing and how much was eating toothpaste but at least  there has been a renewed interest in brushing teeth!

panda: (on his scooter on our way home from school) mama, i go down the hill. DON’T WORRY.
me: oh god where’s the flask of whisky when you need it.
panda: (once he’s made it in one piece) i did it mama! i did it!

and i finally start breathing again.

me: time to get the bath ready panda
panda: no. no bath and no sleep
me: but you’ve had…
panda: the end.

you can imagine how easy that evening was…

on the weekend, we took a trip to the london transport museum.   buses and cars and trains galore!

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panda walked in and his eyes lit up

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“i am a bus driver”

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lots of driving

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double-decker buses

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off it goes

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that smile

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this way daddy

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looking at models through a magnifying lense

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the favourite.

on the 26th, we celebrated Australia:

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by listening to triple j’s hottest 100 top ten songs in bed

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making lamingtons. the end result tasted delicious but looked a complete disaster.

eating vegemite

eating vegemite

tony played Land Down Under on repeat and spent much of the day saying “struth” (alf stewart style)

we miss australia immensely.  luckily, london is doing a mighty fine job of drowning our sorrows.

and so it goes xx

week 3 – Bath and a purple balloon with nine lives

we had a lovely week of catching up with some of our new London friends and meeting new people over tea and coffee.  cafes really are our favourite.

our first adventure outside of London also took place this week.  we hopped on a train at Paddington station on saturday morning and journeyed a little less than two hours to the city of Bath.

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Bath is popular amongst tourists and we knew it would be best to book train tickets and accommodation well in advance.  by our standards (post-panda), this ended up being 11pm the night before we left.  i maintain this is technically still an advanced booking.  we hoped to find a hotel that felt like a cosy country house, not much like a hotel at all and were lucky enough to take the last double room left at the Queensberry Hotel.  fireplaces, a drawing room, period features – its what we were after and it did not disappoint.

IMG_1591in terms of Bath itself, well, it was quite simply breathtaking.

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the cobbled roads, the ancient baths, the stone buildings and quaint shops.  how could you not fall instantly in love.  i could easily live there.  i suggested the idea to tony – “ana, it’s a long commute and I’d have to wake up at four in the morning just to make it to work on time”.   i still don’t see the problem.

we spent our time touring the Roman Baths, eating at cafes and restaurants, and walking around the town, really just taking the beauty and the history in.

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joining us on our weekend getaway was panda’s purple balloon.  it was given to him by a friend we visited on friday morning and panda grew so attached to it that he insisted in come with us on holidays (“i love my balloon so i have to take it with me”).  it miraculously survived the journey through the train stations but there were a couple of close calls.  if you ever come across a youtube video of two crazy people chasing after a balloon in the middle of a crowded train station with a suitcase, pram, portacot and toddler in tow, it’s probably us.  as panda has taken to saying “oh the indignity!”

our tour of the Roman Baths was a real treat, particularly for panda.   he was given his own audio guide and walked around the bath, pleased as punch, imputing all the audio numbers at each exhibit into his device.  we all absorbed a good dose of history and had a fantastic time.

IMG_1585 IMG_1584upon leaving the Roman Baths, just outside Bath Abbey, we faced near catastrophe.  one big gust of wind and the purple balloon flew out of panda’s little hands.   all of a sudden there’s a little boy running around the tourists in a panic (“oh no, my balloon, my balloon!”) before literally tackling the purple balloon to the ground and bursting into tears.  it was a very emotional pursuit and his passion towards saving his balloon was nothing short of admirable.

in the evening, tony and i enjoyed dinner at the Olive Tree Restaurant.   all courses with wines to accompany.  very romantic and incredibly delicious.

sunday morning we slept in and didn’t leave the hotel until check-out.  panda got sick of waiting  for food to arrive so he opened a packet of popcorn and had that for breakfast (i can assure you, this is not one of our breakfast staples).

tony made the rookie mistake of thinking panda had forgotten all about the purple balloon and put it in the hotel’s wastebasket.  by now, we really should know that children don’t forget important things like a purple balloon.  panda was outraged and raced to save his balloon once again (“daddy, that is not rubbish daddy!”).   after a somewhat heated family debate (tony: “i’m not chasing that thing again today”, panda: “i love my balloon”, me: “god i’m starving”), it was unanimously agreed that the balloon would spend the day in the suitcase.

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we finally pulled ourselves together and left the hotel to catch up with our friend Shannon who was also staying in Bath (a lovely surprise!).  We had lunch at Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian. delizioso!

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panda fell asleep soon after lunch. tony likes to call moments like this “sweet relief”.

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couldn’t you just eat him.

i think tony summed the weekend up best when on our way home he said, in his thickest Australian accent (remember, he’s from Toowoomba), “was a perla of a stay”.

it really was.

and perhaps most importantly, despite looking a little worse for wear, the purple balloon made it home safe and sound (only to be completely ignored by panda the next day).

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and so it goes xx

a year of ethical fashion – thursday update

ethical-THURS-buttoni think the best thing about pledging a year of ethical fashion is that it has made me think not only about buying fashion more ethically, but about buying ethically overall.

this week, toys were on the agenda, and instead of heading to the store, we headed to our local op-shop down the road.

and look at what panda found:

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a lovely hand-made zoo play set.  panda went straight to work.

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finding beautiful things.  no shopping needed.

week 2 – markets, an ancient park and the woes of being two

this week saw the return of our usual daily rhythm.   five day working weeks and afternoons at school.  I think panda was a little flustered by the change of pace.  there were meltdowns on our way to the shops because we turned left instead of right and there were meltdowns at home because I accidentally knocked trains off his tracks (“oh no, that’s Thomas mama, you have to walk over it mama!”).  poor little panda seemed so frustrated with me and at the same time only wanted to be with me (“mama…i want my mama!”).  i thought I handled it all pretty well.  that was until I found myself in front of our open refrigerator cursing the butter that I couldn’t find (“I know you’re in here somewhere, and when I find you, I’m going to cut you”…).  at least I took it out on the butter.  it’s hard being two and three quarters sometimes.  for all involved.

panda put forward two demands this week.  number one, he wants showers instead of baths and number two, he will now only pee standing up. no issues with the first.  lots of cleaning involved with the second.  i’ve lost count of how many times I cleaned the bathroom this week.  the theories surrounding projectile motion are not working in our favour.

amidst all that crazy, there was:

stencil painting and school in the afternoons.  panda’s school is situated in the hall of a church founded in 1863 – very cool.

IMG_1554several library visits and lots of reading.  anything by oliver jeffers is our favourite at the moment.

IMG_1552 hugs with mama and learning to play dominos with daddy.

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we were blessed with sunshine and bright blue skies this weekend.  you can imagine our excitement – we were out of the apartment in record time!  making the most of the good weather, we headed to Hampstead Heath (known to locals as ‘the Heath’) which is about a five minute train ride from where we live.  to call the Heath a park feels a huge understatement.  it’s 320 hectares of magnificent English countryside and it’s only about 6kms from the city.  we walked through ancient woodlands and past ponds you can swim in during summer until we arrived at Kenwood House, designed for the first Earl of Mansfield in 1764.  i love that history follows you everywhere you go in London.

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we also headed to east london to check out the brick lane markets.  authentic ethnic foods and second hand goods, all the reason I need to visit east London (or anywhere else for that matter).

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IMG_1558how delicious life is.  even if you do find yourself with a cranky little panda.

and so it goes xx