Oh Sylvie, how are you two? At the same time it feels like you’ve been here forever and also no time at all.Read More
I was absolutely over the moon to get to the Lake District this year.. It’s honestly my ‘happy place’, and arriving there just feels like quiet bliss. I love nothing more than going for a decent walk, finishing with half a pint somewhere, doing a food shop at Booths (please can the North East get Booths too??) or the farm shop and watching DVDs because the signal won’t allow for anything else……Read More
Out of everywhere on our trip, I was most excited about Zermatt and Budapest. It was also where we finally caught up with David and Sylvie - a week was a long time without seeing her little smushy baby face and Viv and I were both so excited to catch up with them.
Vivienne and I arrived in Budapest first, about 4pm, and checked into our AirBnb which was really central and had a 24 hour shop across the road for us to stock up on crisps and beers for when Dav arrived. We met them off the bus from the airport in the evening and luckily Sylvie had slept for the entire flight and Dav wasn't too frazzled - I think he'd been anticipating how it would go but it ended up being pretty straightforward. We dumped our things, turned around and went straight out to dinner to catch up.
The next day we packed up the buggy and walked straight through the city to cross the river and climb up to a good vantage point to see the view. One of our favourite things to do in a new place is to explore by foot, and Budapest is quite sprawling but small enough to walk around from point to point too.. We walked up towards the Citadella, and hung out at the kids' park for a bit, then walked along the river towards Budapest Castle, where we got the funicular up to the top. The views over the city were amazing, so pretty and just what you'd imagine - the parliament buildings in particular look so iconic on the skyline.
From there we crossed back over the river, and there was a Spring festival happening, where we sat and ate some amazing Hungarian street food, had a few beers, and looked around the craft market. It was so colourful, and there was a park nearby with a sunken bar area - the girls hung out on the grass and we took it easy for the afternoon - all tired and needing to relax after travelling in the days before. We decided to take the rest of that first day easily, and hung out back at our accommodation before heading out for tapas on the night (which, it's worth mentioning, was so, so cheap and so good - about £35 for three of us including wine and beers..).
I was so glad that I booked Budapest for three nights, as it meant we had two and a half days to explore, and we could take it all at our own pace. We were really keen to go to a spa but we were a little limited in our options as some places were adult only, and some wouldn't allow babies. We eventually found one on Margaret Island - Palatinus Strand Baths - which had indoor and outdoor pools, thermal saunas and baths, hot and cold pools, a kids' pool.. it was perfect, and we spend a few hours there (I could have stayed there all day, but it's a little less relaxing with the kids!).
The walk back from Margaret Island into the centre was past the Parliament Buildings - even better close up - and we decided to head to the Jewish Quarter. Honestly, I immediately wanted to come back without the girls. The ruin bars are really something else.. So bizarre and amazing. Viv loved exploring them too, but with Sylvie being a toddler and kicking up a fuss we couldn't stay for long. The Jewish Quarter, with all it's bars and restaurants, is amazing, and you could easily kill half a day here wandering around. We stopped for some lunch, before talking a slow walk back, stopping to look at graffiti and take photos too.
We had a few hours to kill on our last day, and decided to head to Városliget Park, where there was plenty to explore and see. We stopped near the old ice skating rink for food, and let the kids blow off some steam at the play area ahead of our flight. It was such a pretty place, and had Castle Vajdahunyad Vára Castle, museums and a zoo as well as the famous Széchenyi Thermal Baths to visit too.
We all had the most wonderful time in Budapest, and loved exploring and being reunited, but I think by this point we were ready for some home comforts too - there's nowhere like your own bed, is there? The flight went well, Sylvie slept all the way home (thank goodness), and Dav drove us back from the airport while I slept (sorry for being shit company).
A few days after being home I was itching to head away again.. the travel bug/Wanderlust is real. I'm hoping to get away just me and the girls in the Summer for another adventure.. this really has been magical memory-making stuff.
Well, Sylvie is definitely not a baby any more. 'Spirited' would be one way of putting it.. 'a loveable little terror' would be another. She refuses to walk, but I'm declaring her a 'toddler'. The baby stage is well and truly over.
She seems to be learning so much so quickly at the moment; everything from trying to copy words that we say, to make-believe playing, to really understanding a few commands, like 'pass me that' or 'take your dummy out'. She has a baby doll which was once Vivienne's which she's taken a particular shining to, trying to feed it and put a nappy on it.. and watching her 'role-playing' is so wonderful. She's gentle with it and cuddles it.. In these moments you'd think she was a considered and kind little thing through and through..
Obviously the toddler years bring frustration and fury for them too as they try to make sense of the world.. she is head-strong, loud.. (I was going to type 'unreasonable' but *obviously*.. she's only 16 months old) Vivienne, hand on heart, was so placid in comparison, whereas Sylvie is not afraid to really make her voice heard.
We are so lucky that Vivienne is so patient as we make our way through this stage of giving kisses, cuddling, then hair pulling, hitting and pinching (those baby pinches really bloody hurt..). It's hard to start introducing discipline when I know she doesn't mean to hurt, or even really know what she's doing. Anyway, we're muddling through this ever-changing day-to-day life with our headstrong little girl.
The blog, recently, has been very heavy with things from mine and Vivienne's Interrail trip, so I thought I would also include a little Sylvie update, for this wonderful but often tiring stage we're currently at. All the little things she does and watching her learn honestly makes up for when she's screaming and attracting attention during 'the big shop'. Sylvie saying 'Mama' and putting her hands up for a cuddle makes all the difficult little moments melt away...
Sylvie at 16 months
Says the words 'Dad', 'Daddy', 'Mum', 'Wav' (for Viv!), "Yessss", "Cock" (for 'look', we hope..) and also, due to her Dad being a huge Boro fan ' Up Bo-o' for 'Up The Boro'.
Eats well on her own; she loves omelettes, lasagne, pasta, cottage pie, fish, vegetables, yoghurt, fruit pouches and chocolate (we're still working on the Easter chocolate!)
Role-plays with her baby doll, giving it her dummy, putting it down to sleep, trying to dress it and change it's nappy.. She tries to draw with a pen (yesterday it was all over the couch), and loves her wooden garage and cars that she got for her birthday.
Has walked four/five steps max, has taken plenty of one/two steps but 99% of the time powers around the house by crawling. She can scale a flight of stairs so quickly.. but no rush to get up on two feet.
Loves playing peek-a-boo behind clothing/sheets, and will hide then surprise you. She loves the swings and the slide, and when you pretend to chase her from room to room.
She's still constantly looking for Vivienne - she follows her around the house and will ask "Wav?" when she's at school.
Dances and shakes her head to music, and loves when we join in.
Also, I can't not mention her hair. Vivienne had hardly any hair until she was two and a half, and it was so curly. Sylvie has a mop of hair that means that she looks like a mix of Ed Sheeran and Boris Johnson if we don't tie it up.. So funny, but we still don't know what to do about it apart from making her look like Pebbles from The Flintstones!
Sleeps well most of the time, she's currently getting back molars in which is loads of fun - full screaming in the middle of the night, but hopefully we'll be out the other side soon.
Loves the bath and loves swimming. Water baby.
A bit of back-story for anyone not 'in the know' - when we realised Vivienne was on her way it was a huge surprise (AKA it was unplanned and we were shitting it). I was 20, David was 21, we were both in Liverpool at uni and it was *not* something we were expecting, to say the least. I guess the full extent of that chaos is best saved for another day, but in short we became parents long before we expected to.
Nevertheless, it only took for Vivienne to become a young toddler before some people started asking when we were going to have another, even though I was only 22/23.. and it never really stopped since. For all the women out there (who probably aren't reading this family-centric blog) who don't want children and are sick of being asked about it - even women who *have* kids are constantly asked about whether they're planning on getting pregnant soon.. even, on one occasion, with one woman in Sainsbury's telling me I was a cruel mother for not planning on 'giving' Vivienne a sibling. Nice.
Anyway, fast forward six and a half years and batting off hundreds of questions about our plans (we didn't even *have* plans about more kids up until this point), we decided to go for it and try for another.
When I fell pregnant Vivienne was a few months off seven years old and when Sylvie was born she was seven and a half. She was old enough to be patient and understanding when I was feeling crap and irritable during pregnancy, and also old enough that if I wanted a break or a nap for half an hour on my own then she was responsible enough to be completely safe in that time.
When Sylvie was born she was old enough to understand that, although we loved them both equally, Sylvie often had priority and her needs had to be seen to before Vivienne's. She knew how to get herself ready for school and could (most of the time) pack and check her own bag, do homework on her own, and help a bit around the house. There was never a hint of jealousy or feeling a bit pushed out when Sylvie arrived; we thought the novelty of having a baby at home might wear off a little and she would want to spend some time doing her more grown up child things when at home but it hasn't been the case at all.
As it stands the girls adore each other, they gravitate towards each other in the house and only have eyes for each other when they're reunited after school at the end of the day. Vivienne is an amazing help, we don't push her when she's not feeling like it but most of the time she loves little responsibilities like getting Sylvie ready for the day or watching her for me while I sort things out. Life consists of a *lot* more juggling with two little ones but with Vivienne being older it makes the baby stage so much less intense - they really do entertain each other every day.
There were many reasons that we had a big age gap, and we never really 'pined' as such for baby number two - we were often close to deciding to only even have Vivienne as she got older and things became easier. We were young, working on careers, moving house and moving house (we moved about six times in as many years..) and there was too much going on without throwing more chaos into the mix. We could easily have stuck at one baby but Sylvie seemed to arrive at exactly the right time for us - even being born out of wedding season exactly as we'd hoped for.
Any baby books I read seemed to list negatives for big age gaps, "they won't bond as well", "you'll have to rebuy all your baby equipment", "the eldest will be jealous after being an only child so long".. but forgot some amazing positives such as "childcare costs a fortune and you'll only ever have one in pre-school care at a time", "you can comfortably get a shower or have 15 minutes to yourself because there's someone to responsibly watch the baby", "your eldest is more independent and can get ready/eat/wash so you're only wrestling with one little person each day" and "only one bloody massive car seat to wrestle with at a time".
Maybe everything just happens for a reason? (Maybe that reason is that in seven years we'll have one that can babysit the other..?) Whatever led to this point and whatever made us take a little longer than average, it's worked well and I can't imagine it any other way.
Big age gaps are the way forward - and we have these two to prove it.