Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Away in a Manger always makes me cry...

I lost my first little boy at the end of October. He had been due on the 8th December, I had been told all through my pregnancy "Oh, a Christmas baby!"
So of course Christmas brought on strong emotions and lots of tears.

Even now, eleven years later, I cry when I am standing in church and singing Away in a Manger, or more precisely when I sing the last verse :
"Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care."

When I was in hospital and my son was in a cooler room next door, and each time I had visited his grave and was coming back home, I had the feeling that I was leaving him alone, a little baby without his mummy. I should have been taking care of him but I wasn't.

Yesterday night we were watching last year's Christmas episode of Doctor Who, a really nice story about how strong a mother is for her children and how she always looks after them, how a mother cares. In this story the children got lost in a forest with the Doctor and of course there is danger.They say that Mummy will come, she always comes.
My little boy went so far away from me and I couldn't go to him to bring him back. Even when he was still in my tummy and I felt something was wrong, he was actually very far away already and I couldn't go to him.
And I so wanted to go to him... Grief then was like a craving almost as strong as the need to breath, and I couldn't breath. So it hurt, so I cried, and I still cry when I'm reminded of it.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Presents for Him - what I've done so far

A portrait of our son.

Wipes for spectacles with drawings of our children emboridered on them. I really like these. They are so easy to make and so sweet.

"Grinch pills" with handmade label. I like my label better than the one I'd seen on Pinterest!

And now I have a bit less than a week to make the sofa caddy !!!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Take a knife to it ?

I have been somewhat neglecting my blog these past months... The thing is, I am training as a breastfeeding counsellor with the NCT and a change of the university which validates the diploma has meant that dead lines have suddenly been zooming towards me at an alarming speed!
 In short I have been busy writing assignments and found myself with no room for blogging.

I don't know how you write your blog, but personally I need to find a thought, taste it, chew it, ponder it, turn it round and round in my head, until I can put it in a post. It's a bit the same when I write an essay, I think about my subject, I research, I taste the ideas, etc. So while I have been concocting essays in my head, there wasn't much room for blog posts... It sounds a bit pathetic - small head I have - but there you go.

So it's only fair that this part of my life feeds my blogging today... One of my last assignment was about developping my role as a breastfeeding counsellor in the future. And frankly, at first, I just wanted to say 'I'm not even qualified yet, give me a break!' But write it I must so I chose to talk about the role of doula, or birth companion. Birth is after all a fairly important factor in the initation of breastfeeding.

Anyway, I researched what the work of a doula is about and found out lots of very interesting things, until I came to 'challenges and issues' which was one of the topics I had to develop in my essay.

Now if you read my blog you might know that I lost two baby boys at 32 weeks of pregnancy. My first baby, 11 years ago, and my fourth baby, 5 years ago. I know that, as a breastfeeding counsellor, I might work with parents who have lost a baby and I'm fine with that. I even think, feel, that my experience could be useful to others.

But what if I became a doula and met... myself ? What if I talked to a mother, in the last stage of pregnancy, got to know her and planned with her the birth she would like, and then one day she would call me, distraught, because she's been told that her baby's heart has stopped and she needs me to be with her for the birth...

When I lost my first baby I was so shocked and distressed that my first thoughts were to just get rid of my bump as fast as possible. Then, as I was induced, I took refuge in fantasies about my baby still being alive, his heart beating only very weakly. The doctors would realise it at the birth and they would save him...

Before the birth I didn't know if I wanted to see him. I was scared of what I could see... But when the midwife took him in her arms and looked at him with love and exclaimed "Oh, he's beautiful!" Of course I wanted to see him, and he was beautiful indeed. That midwife gave me such a precious, incommensurable gift. Would I be able to do the same gift to another mother ?

I would need to work on my own experience and as jagged as was the wound, it's healed fairly well now. The scar still hurts sometimes but I can bear it. I would have to take a surgical knife to it to open the wound again and go poking into it, have a good lookk around, then do a neat suture.

Can I ? Could you ?

Monday, 26 November 2012

Low, and I mean REALLY low, budget Christmas gifts for him.

This year DH has bought himself an electric guitar both for Christmas and his birthday (which are almost at the same time), so I am not allowed to spend on Christmas presents for him.

On this low, really low, budget, this is what I've come up with...

If I have time, I have an old beige-ish skirt and grey winter shorts that could turn into a funky cap following this pattern :

I've found lots of inspiration on Pinterest :

I really want to make that one.

And I've got the fabric, a soon-to-be recycled blue laundry bag that DH was going to give to the charity shop, and a piece of fabric I found in our charity shop! In a blue shade too. All I need is find something that will act as 'gripping fabric'... Any ideas?

I won't make handkerchiefs but squares of a soft fabric (found in the remnants bin of a fabric shop for 60 p) to clean spectacles.

Again, if I have time!

This :

And this, I will definitely do :

Finally, I have done DD1 and DD2's portraits, so I would like to do DS now (and one day DD3 too!).

You can find links for most of these ideas on my Pinterest profile,

Copyright 2012 MotherGoutte

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Dairy and egg free cupcakes

With DS's diet at the moment - no milk, no eggs, making cakes is a bit tricky!

I made a cake for his birthday, using soya butter and egg replacement powder and madeira cake recipe (same proportions of sugar, flour and butter). The cake tasted nice but was quite dense and greasy.

I had another try reducing the amount of butter. In fact I ran out and didn't even have half of the weight of the flour! It was greasy but dense again and a bit rubbery, not as nice to eat as the first attempt.

Then the other day DD1 and DD2 made some cupcakes for school and DS and I had another go. We used:
6oz flour
6 oz sugar
1tsp baking powder
3 heaped tsp of Ogran egg replacement powder + 6 tbsp soya milk (although the instructions say water)
3oz soya butter
A drop of vanilla extract
85% cocoa chocolate that we cut into 'chips'

We put the flour, sugar, baking powder and egg replacement powder in a bowl, mixed them together. Then we added the milk and vanilla, mixed a bit. Then the butter and mixed thouroughly, adding a bit more milk to make the dough a bit more 'creamy'. Finally the chocolate. We placed a generous tbsp of dough in our cupcakes cases and put in the pre-heated oven (180°). They cooked for longer than usual cupcakes, around 25mn (or until they start to take a golden colour).

They were just right! Light, not too greasy nor too dry and tasted yummy.

And we finally got an appointment for DS in hospital to find out what exactly he's allergic too, so maybe he will be allowed something back!

Monday, 19 November 2012

My Mum's paupiettes

I felt like sharing a recipe today. So here is one of my Mum's specials, ideal to cook in advance if you're planning to entertain and just warm up while you're having drinks with your guests!

For 6 :
6 turkey or veal steaks
500g/1lb Sausage meat
2 x tinned tomatoes
1 cup Red wine
2 or 3 cloves Garlic

Roll some sausage meat into a turkey or veal steak and tie with cooking string. In a hot pan sear the 'paupiettes' on all sides. Add the tomatoes, wine, garlic (chopped) and seasoning. Cook for at least one hour on low heat or in a slow cooker.


Thursday, 8 November 2012


Yesterday I was walking my little boy to preschool and another boy was behind us and said very loudly "A. is not very nice!" I didn't hear his mum say anything but he repeated "A. is not very nice, he's not very nice at all!"

As you can imagine my blood boiled as I saw hurt (or thought I saw hurt?) on my son's face. I itched to say "Takes one to know one!".

I know my son is boisterous and he likes to play tough with his friends (there is in particular one of his best friends with whom he always wrestles!), but he is also generous, always sharing treats he got to eat, and he also shares his toys quite well for someone his age (he will be 4 in January).

Then this morning the same boy was at preschool. They had a table with lots of plastic creepy-crawlies, magnifiers, twizzers and egg-shaped pincers to 'catch' the things. DS came to the table and reached towards one of the pincers, two being in front of THAT boy.
Well, what do you know, the boy seized both of the pincers waving his hands and swatting so DS coudln't have one! DS just moved away and the boy put the pincers back on the table. So - and there I might have behaved a bit childishly - I took one. The boy protested "I need two!" to which I answered sweetly "No you don't." Then I gave him one of the tweezers and said that way he would have two different things.

Well, it was only reasonable that he should share the pincers! And it turns out HE is the not very nice one!!

Have you ever felt like that, like you could quarrel with a 4 yo for the sake of your own child?!

On a more serious note, I do realise that they're only 4 and everything goes at that age. It's more the fact that the mother let her son vindictive mine that shocked me, but then I don't quite have the nerve to go into an Outnumbered like discussion with another mother (Mum discussing swapsies)...!

Monday, 5 November 2012

The boy and the intruder

An old post, well... not that old but still. Here goes !

Once there was a boy called Max. Max was four and lived with his Mummy and Daddy and his dog Doodle who was his best friend in the whole wide world. Max was a very happy boy until...

One day Max's Daddy came to pick him up early from school, which was a bother as Max had been building a rocket. It looked like it was going to be the best thing he had ever built but it would certainly be ruined now. The inspiration would have left him by tomorrow! So Max  cried all the way home.

When he arrived home, however, Max understood what the rush had been and why his parents needed him. A Thing had invaded their home and it was terrible !

The Thing was very ugly, just like the aliens in Max's favourite TV programme : red, scrawny and wrinkly, with little claws of hands. Well, probably claws. His parents had managed to encase them in protective gloves to spare themselves of the deadly poison they must scratch you with.

The Thing quickly transformed Max's house in a mass of mess, ten times worse than what Max could achieve in a whole week!

The Thing made a terrible noise when it was hungry, piercing and blaring. It made your eyes water. And it was always hungry, even during the night.

The Thing always farted and pooped and the smell was terrible, worse even than brussel sprouts.

The Thing needed to be guarded at all times and Max's parents did not have so much time anymore for Max.

Worse, the Thing was here to say. Max's parents had said that they could not send it back (Max had asked).

Worse still, Max's parents were getting fond of the Thing. Max had heard about it on TV. It happened to people who were kept prisoners and Max and his family were certainly like prisoners...

Months passed and Max learned to just live trying to ignore that the Thing even existed. Life was not as it had been before but it was ok. The Thing was still braying and stinking but Max's parents were getting better at dealing with it. Max even started to forget what, exactly, life had been like before.

And then suddenly something quite extraordinary happened. Max was playing with his favourite rocket. The Thing was lying beside him, watching. Max engineered the launch of his rocket, which involved lots of weird noises (Max loved making weird noises). And the Thing laughed! A big, rolling, gurggling laugh that made Max feel something very strange. He felt happy and proud. He felt that what him, Max, did must be very special if it could make the Thing laugh in this way.

And from this moment Max thought that it might not be too horrible, after all, to have a little sister.

Copyright 2012 Mother Goutte

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Fear is one of the feelings I remember the most from after I lost my first baby. I was afraid of so many things... I once told a friend how each time I visited the cemetery I, for a split second, saw a threatening figure in the gate post, and she said : "Let me know when you're not afraid of it anymore."
Everything felt so alien in my small world of new mum without a baby, and the whole world around me seeing me as a childless woman.
I was afraid of going outside, in our village, and bump into people who had seen me pregnant and would ask questions. I didn't feel that many people would be able to hear what I wanted to say about my son : the infinite sadness of his absence but the joy, also to be his mother...

Monday, 22 October 2012

Just a splinter...

On Saturday morning DS (who will be 4 in January) had beenplaying happily in the sitting room when he came to find me. I was picking up things from the floor so was kneeling down and found myself looking straight into his face. He looked very unhappy, ready to cry but yet not crying, which is sometimes more worrying. I exclaimed something like "Oh my love, what's the matter?" He buried his head in my neck and we had a long cuddle. Afterwards he still looked upset but wouldn't tell me what was bothering him. I asked if he had hurt himself but he didn't answer.

I sat with him on my lap, thinking that if he had hurt himself in some way it would probably pass. Then I noticed that he wasn't using his left hand and kept it with his palm towards him. I enquired about it and he started crying and didn't want me to look at it. Eventually I had a glimpse of something, the fleshy bit at the bottom of the thumb looked sore and I thought I saw a splinter.

As he wouldn't let me have a look but looked in pain I went to fins my husband and together we managed to see that he indeed had a splinter about half a cm long and maybe half a millimeter wide. It looked really sore. I tried to remove it but DS was thrashing about and getting more distressed. I just kept cuddling him and he actually fell asleep, slept for 2 hours and was feeling better after (although he still has the splinter in his hand).

What really struck me is how quickly he retreated into himself, how the pain and upset isolated him and how he resisted any attempt to help. And it was only a splinter! But I have been wondering if he would react the same way for something more serious and I found the thought really scary.

What can you do when your children are suffering and they don't want to let you in...?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

#ONEMum against poverty - Breastfeeding

On the 6th of October two talented bloggers, Jennifer Howze - one of BritMums co-founders, and Michelle Pannell - Mummy from the Heart, went to Ethiopia with, an organization dedicated to fight against poverty and preventable disease. They're inviting other bloggers to join their voices to theirs and raise awarness towards ONE's work and their latest campaign.

As a student breastfeeding counsellor when I read what ONE is fighting against and how they campaign for 'putting nutrition on the global agenda', of course I think of breastfeeding.

So many lives can be saved from encouraging and protecting breastfeeding.
The babies' by :
- giving them the antibodies they need when they're born, the antibodies acting as a first immunization
- reducing the number of death from infection (particularly diahrrea and respirotary infections)
- providing them with the only food adapted for their immature guts
- also providing them with all the nutrients they need to grow more healthy
- overall reducing the risk of neonatal death

The mums' by :
- reducing the risk of haemorrhage after birth (associated with a third of maternal death in Africa)

UNICEF says "it has been estimated that optimal breastfeeding of children under two years of age has the potential to prevent 1.4 million deaths in children under five in the developing world annually" (see here)
Strategies are needed at a National level :
- developpement and application of young child feeding policies

- enforcement of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes

Health-system :
- trainging health workers in breastfeeding counselling
- implementation of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative

Community :
- support for mothers (community health workers, breastfeeding counsellors, mother-to-mother support)

"Exclusive breastfeeding tops the table of life-saving interventions for newborns. Babies who do not exclusively breastfeed are six times more likely to die from diarrheoa or respiratory infections than babies who do." (UNICEF, 2009)

Supporting breastfeeding in Ethiopia.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Earth and Fire

When we lost our first baby boy at 32 weeks there was no question about how we would say good bye. It was clear for us that he would be buried. It's in our culture and upbringing. In France, and in the Catholic Faith, the dead are buried.

We drew comfort in meeting up with our priest and chosing readings and hymns. I remember that we chose the Gospel where Jesus instructs his disciples to let little children come to Him.
A reading from St Exupéry's Little Prince.
A French hymn about the beauty of Creation (the equivalent of All Things Bright and Beautiful).

We carried the tiny coffin ourselves from the church. There was much love in that gesture, and pain too as I hadn't been able to hold him after he was born...

For a long time I needed to go on his grave every day. I received many blessings there, a shooting star, a young owl perched on the cemetery's gate, a particularly beautiful sunset, a cloud in the shape of a baby (yes, really!)...

When we lost our second son 6 years later I couldn't face the thought of having two graves for my children in the cemetery (we had denied the option to make space in the grave for further diceased members of the family). I couldn't face either to have family coming over from France and have to comfort them as well as smooth over the tensions between them.

So he was cremated and we scattered his ashes over his brother's grave.

Since then I have been thinking a lot about these two very different ways to say good-bye.
I know lots of people don't like burials. Is it because of what happens to the body? It's indeed a slow process, painful to think about...
But one thing that's really important for me in a burial is that earth is life and life grows from it. We planted lavender and roses on our son's grave : continuity of life.

Fire is clean and quick but there is no after. There is a certain poesy in the scattering of ashes, carried by the wind, mixed with everything, but still, for me, it doesn't create life. Earth and dust do. And in the end, it's just that, dust to dust.

I have also reflected that these two good-byes were in accordance with how I handled grief both time.
The first time I confronted and embraced the pain, thought and talked about my baby as every possible moment. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described the feelings of grief as denial, bargaining (what if... , if only...), anger, depression and acceptance. In my grief for my first baby there was a lot of bargaining, anger (in form of guilt) and depression, all mixed together, sometimes one stronger than the other, sometimes going forward, sometimes, going backwards between them. It took me time, lots of time. And I took the time to be sad.

The second time there was denial, numbness, but also acceptance, finally... I still talked and thought about him but I needed to say good-bye quickly and keep the pain and tears for later, when I would be able to deal with them, numb the pain for it would have broken me otherwise.

Earth and fire...

Friday, 12 October 2012

What to do when you're stuck on the sofa with a poorly child in your arms

Last week DB had a bout of high temperature that lasted for two days. The first day she was very tired and didn't want me to put her down, so I spent most of the day sitting on the sofa.Mainly she breastfed and slept, so she got plenty of fluids and rest, and by the evening she seemed to feel much better although her temperature was still creeping up when the effect of the Calpol wore off.

So I have amused myself at compulsing some ideas of what to do in such a situation :
- Drink tea.
Well, when else are you going to have such a stretch of inuterrupted time to enjoy a cuppa? Exactly!

- Eat cake.
Unfortunately I didn't have any that day but if I was that kind of girl I would always have a freshly baked cake, in a tin, ready for any situation that could arise, like a poorly child pinning you to the sofa. Something maybe like that Banana Caramel Loaf from the lovely Recipe Junkie (actually I should just convince her to provide me with lovely cakes...).

- Watch a movie.
It's very rare these days to have the time to watch a movie from start to finish. So I watched Coco Before Chanel. It was nice for a change to watch something in French too, although arguably it's not the most cheerful of movies. But it had a slow pace and aesthetic quality that suited the day.

- Read a book.
Like many I think I have finally come over to Kindle. No it's not like reading a real book, but when you spend a lot of time breastfeeding, or waiting at schools or preschools' gates, or supervising bathtime, or waiting by a bed that a child fall asleep, etc. Having the resource of taking your phone out and having something to read, it's quite nice, isn't it?
My last read was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, treating of a difficult subject with much sensibility, avoiding the trap of falling into mere sensational.

- Write.
It's so easy to blog, tweet, write, on a phone, a tablet, a laptop/notebook.

- Shop.
Once again, so easy from any device connected to Internet. I just love browsing on Ebay and tick things to watch : virtual window shopping!

- Think.
And why not?

- Plan your holidays.
Although maybe for some things it might be dangerous to act in idleness! I nearly booked us there and then in this lovely Roman flat.Well, there might be an idea into it...

- Plan to redecorate your home.
I thought about what I could do in the dining room.

- Catch up with friends by email.
I must confess to have kept in touch mainly with friends who have an email address and to rarely write 'snail mail' letters... What about you?

Well, with Internet and all the social networks available the possibilities are almost limitless, aren't they? And a time of inaction can be very busy indeed!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

My 'olden days' kitchen dream

Since I have been old enough to imagine in what sort of house I would like to live I have always thought that I would really like a big kitchen which would be the heart of the house, a bit like my grand-mother's. With a big table, a grand-father clock and a standing cupboard that smells of wood, tea and homemade cakes in battered tins.

In our present house we have a galley kitchen with fitted elements and an inox sink and there isn't really any way it could be any different. But I'm thinking... The kitchen opens onto the dining room and THAT could be an extension of the kitchen, designed how I dream it.

We are lucky to have a fireplace in that room. It's not being used presently although its twin, on the other side of the wall, warms up our sitting room on cold and grey winter days. That fireplace would be perfect for a small range like this :

Or even this :

Doesn't it look lovely?

The room is not massive and the oval table we have at the moment rather cramps it. A bench along the wall, a simple, rectangular, wooden table, and stools that can easily be tucked underneath, would be great and much more practical. Lots of lovely tables here, a bit on the expensive side but good ideas for the sort of design I would like.

Now that the longest bit of wall is used the trick would be to finf small pieces of furniture that would add to the 'kitcheny' feeling of the room.

I would love a small grand-father clock to go betweem the fireplace and the sitting room's door or between the window giving onto the garden and the door to the galley kitchen (but we would have to move the light switch!).
Something like this :

And maybe we could have a dresser top fixed to the wall, ideally under the stairs, above the radiator (although with the range we could almost get rid of the radiator!). This should fit :
I could finally display the china plates I got from my grand-mother and some odd lovely tea cups I found over the months in our charity shop.

We would have old wooden doors fitted in front of the shelves DH put up between the fireplace and the wall. And we would have ceramic tiles in front of the fireplace (there isn't anything at the moment, just concrete and at lower level that the wooden floor). I was thinking antic ones but something like this would be fun (but maybe completely out of budget!):

The table would always be clean and tidy (cough, cough), the children sitting around it to do colouring or homework or rolling out cinnamon and honey dough to make biscuits, me at one end of the table, blogging on my notebook. An old kettle on the range, ready for a cuppa at any time, maybe a cake baking in the oven, or a fragrant soup on the hob. The grand-father clock gently chimes the blissful hours while outside the rain hits the windows and the wind howls, the family oblivious to their spiteful voices...

Monday, 8 October 2012

About that male student midwife story - Monday club

Lots of tweets at the moment are about the student midwife who was denied to attend an NCT breastfeeding session because he's male.
Well, as usual and unsurprisingly, it's onbly part of the story. It was actually a women only breastfeeding session, and he was offered other options to attend, which he declined.

Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive for NCT, the UK's largest charity for parents,said:

"We want breastfeeding to be as normal as reading the newspaper, so normally partners do attend support sessions. We are also committed to supporting the development of health professionals. However, women who seek breastfeeding support are often feeling particularly vulnerable and some may feel uncomfortable with a male presence, so we also offer women-only sessions for those who want this.

"On this occasion, when a male student midwife wanted to visit a women-only group, we offered him a number of alternative options and did all we could to support him in furthering his professional development. It's disappointing that he was not able to follow up these offers."

Some could say, but he's a midwife, he will deliver babies and help women breastfeed. Shouldn't he be treated like any other midwife? Isn't it sexism?
But the thing is it IS women who give birth and breastfeed. Surely it's their needs that should take precedence over political correctness and not being sexist?

I find it admirable that men want to be midwives but I fear it might not be the only hurdle this student will meet with. He could meet women who won't want to be followed during their prgnancy or attended for the birth of their baby, by a male midwife. Will that be sexism?

My mother used to tell us this saying she had learned as a child in "education civique" (civics) : Everyone's freedom stops where that of someone else's starts.
Isn't that a bit what is happening here? This student sees it as his right to be treated equally to a female student and attend whichever antenatal session he chooses to. But NCT saw it as the women's right to have their "women only" session, well... only with women.

However hard it's been tried in the past, a profession doesn't make one asexuel. "It doesn't count, he's a doctor." Well, I'm sorry, but sometimes it does count. A person is surely more than their profession?

If a man was to have a coloscopy or a close examination of sensitive parts and refused a female doctor to do it, would he be deemed sexist? Well, there might be people to do so but I think they would be wrong.

To come back to that midwife student, as Belinda Phipps said pregnant women can feel particularly vulnerable and it's a question to decide whose needs come first: First time mums', hormones all over the place, body changed beyond recognition ;) , life turned upside-down by the upcoming arrival of a completely new person whose going to have somehow to come out of their body. Or a male midwife student's, with free time and choice and offered to attend a couples breastfeeding session?
It might sound sexist and not politically correct, but I think it's the mums'.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Monday Club : The baby princess of Fiddlydy

Oops! I had - already - forgotten that the Wednesday link to Sarah's blog had moved from Wednesday to Monday!
Here is a story I had posted on my blog when I was starting it. It didn't get many reads at the time...!

Once upon a time in the faraway land of Fiddlydy the King's daughter was expecting a baby.
Babies in the land of Fiddlydy are fed with the juice of the dontmakesuchafuss plant.
The plants are harvested exactly on the 1st of Firstofthesummermonths, the same day that the last juice of the last plant of the harvest from the previous year is given to a baby of Fiddlydy.
It so happens that the Princess's baby was due on the 2nd of Firstofthesummermonths.
It so happens that the Princess's baby was the only baby due that month.
And... it so happens that two days before the harvest of the dontmakesuchafuss plant a terrible storm hit the land of Fiddlydy and blew away all the plants!
Fortunately Fiddlydy babies are born with such reserves from their time in their mothers' tummy that they don't absolutely need to feed in the first week after they are born.
Still, the fact that there would be no food for the royal baby or any Fiddlydy baby born after the lost harvest was a huge concern.
The King gathered all his  counsellors and put the problem before them. The counsellors thought, scratched their heads, tapped their lips and picked their noses. Eventually a short round lady with a high pitched voice said "Sire, I think that in some lands babies are fed the milk of the moocow...
- Excellent, excellent, said the King. Send royal messengers to our Provinces to find milk of the moocow!"
The messengers were sent and the milk found.
On the 2nd of Firstofthesummermonths a baby girl was born to the Fiddlydy Princess.
A bottle of milk of the moocow was brought in great fanfare to the Princess, who gave it to her daughter.
The milk had barely passed the baby's lips that it went straight out at the other end in a bright rose bonbon. Rose bonbon is not the colour you want to see in Fiddlydy babies' nappies. It is sign of very bad digestion.
The milk from the moocow was discarded and the royal counsellors gathered again. They thought,  they scratched their heads, they tapped their lips and picked their noses. Eventually a very tall and thin counsellor with a very deep voice said : "Sire, I believe that in some lands babies are given milk of the maagoat.
- Excellent, excellent, said the King. Send royal messengers to our Provinces to find milk of the maagoat!"
Messengers were sent and the milk found.
A bottle of milk of the maagoat was brought in great fanfare to the Princess, who gave it to her daughter.
The milk had barely passed the baby's lips that it went straight out at the other end in a dull avocado green poo. Avocado green is slightly better than rose bonbon but still not the right colour for a Fiddlydy baby’s nappy.
And so the King gathered his counsellors again, and again, and again. By the end of the second day the royal baby’s bottom was resembling a rainbow.
The King then called for his royal town crier. “Tell everyone, said the King, that we need advice on how to feed Fiddlydy babies!”
The proclamation was read everywhere in town and further away in the surrounding villages.

A woman from the land of Straightfoward was visiting her sister and heard the proclamation. She set forth at once to go to the Palace.
The royal guards took the woman straight to the King who in turn took her to his daughter.
The Princess was bathing her baby, having tried yet another food which went out of her daughter in a rather toxic looking fluorescent orange poo.
A washing line was crossing the Princess’s chambers. Hung on it were all the clothes the baby had worn in the past couple of days, still bearing faint traces of the variously coloured poos.
“Your Majesty, said the woman, I think I know how you could feed your baby.”
The Princess looked wearily at the woman. She had given so many different foods to her poor baby that she was despairing to ever find a solution. She would just have to give her what was the least bad and hope for the best.
“Where I come from, continued the woman, in Straightforward land, the mothers feed their babies themselves.”
The Princess’s eyes lit up. She walked to her visitor with her baby in her arms. “Show me!”
They first had to remove the Princess’s dress, blouse, chemise and corset so that the royal mother was only wearing a camisole that she opened at the top. Then the Princess made herself comfortable and the woman put the baby on her mother’s chest. The baby nestled, snuffled, tasted, touched, until she found her mother’s bosom, latched on and fed contentedly.
“Oh my, said the Princess, she is a strong little creature! I have never felt such a thing.” The royal baby soon fell asleep. Her mother had a faraway look in her eyes and a wide smile on her face. She thanked the woman again and again and asked her to stay a bit longer.
Some time later unmistakable noises originated from the baby’s royal bottom and the Princess eagerly went to change her daughter’s clothes. In the baby’s nappy her mother found the most beautiful sky blue poo, the most perfect poo for a Fiddlydy baby.

Copyright 2012 Mother Goutte

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Prejudice : young doctors

In my mind a doctor should be someone older than me. But, having reached the great age of 40, I find myself going to consult doctors whom I feel I could almost have given birth to. And I don't like it. I know their kind, DH's god-daughter is studying medecine and she's so... well, young! She's so inexperienced in human lives and feelings that are different from hers.

Coming from France and experiencing the British health system I found that doctors here listen more to their patients. In France they want to give you a prescription to treat any and every of your symptoms. Here they don't want to give you a prescription but I really believe that what you gain is being more considered like a person than a sum of symptoms.

But when they're just out of school... What do they know about the life and struggles of a mum of four? And about children? About anything?!
Recently DS has had troubles with a persistent runny tummy... The young doctor I saw suspected food intolerance and advised to cut things out of his diet. Ok, so far it's sensible enough. What she shouldn't have said was "At this age (4 in January) they don't notice if you take something out of their diet."
...!!!!!!! I don't think I need to explain how this statement is wrong in so many ways.

How can you not be prejudiced when you entrust your children's health in somebody who so clearly doesn't understand what a child is about? I think it's important to know what someone is about to treat them.

I know doctors have to learn, have to start somewhere. But maybe their curriculum should include some basis in psychology, sociology, child psychology, counselling... Is that too much to ask?! ;)

#SnapHappyBritMums : Water

The Josephine Baker swimming pool, on the river Seine.

Water, with the proper safeguarding, is such a fun and fascinating element for children.

DS loved that parisian swimming pool where you can swim AND see boats go by and we were very lucky to be able to visit that place. But children can have fun with water with much more humble means! I remember spending litterally hours standing behind DD1 perched on a chair in front of the sink. An experience repeated with DD2 and Recipe Junkie's Pink when they were small!
There is always that wonder, with a very small child, of watching a stream of water and trying to catch it and so much more...

Water in a toy tea pot to pour again and again and again. 
Water in sports bottles to squirt on friends (a favourite everywhere with children on school run!).
Water from a fountain in the centre of town, running under the spray. 
Water in puddles, going in your boots when you jump hard. 
Water falling from the sky!
Water in the bath, trying to splash up to the ceilings and form hanging droplets (DD2...!).
Water in the river with little things living in it.
Water with colour added.
Water spat back in the glass with what was in your mouth (DS).
Water poured on Mummy's head in the bath to give her a shampoo.
Water spilled over from the paddling pool turning the garden into mud.
Water from a hose or a sprinkler, being sprayed and squeal and laugh.
Drops of water in the sky, turning light into a rainbow.

How do 'your' children play with water ?!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

First day - Wednesday Witter #9

Back in France children often start school the year (calendar year) they turn 3, which means that some of them will start at 2 1/2. My own memories of starting school are of climbing stairs to my classroom while crying...

Whenever I find it hard to send my children to school I think of France and how, over there, I would have had to go through the separation process every single day of the week from when they were still quite little.

With DD1 it was hard enough to take her to Playgroup, two mornings a week. The very first time I didn't know what to do : stay for the whole session, stay a little bit, not stay at all ?! I should have asked the staff but, like DD1 I felt shy and unsure of the unfamiliar surroundings. In the end I stayed a little bit and, seeing all the other parents go, went... DD1 started screaming and crying while I took flight. I then sat outside for a good 15 minutes, crying. Passer-by were geeting worried ! I called DH and, in between sobs, said that I had left DD1 at Playgroup. He enquired "And ?", fear in his voice. To which I answered "That's it!!!" And that was it. Leaving her...

At the time I was still grieving my first boy. I had this notion that I had let him go and that I had failed in doing so, I should have saved him. And now I was letting my little girl go too...

She did calm down quite quickly that first day, but always anticipated the separation afterwards. I stayed with her for the whole session for 4 sessions but it didn't make things much easier. She was always happy at Playgroup though, it was just the saying good-bye part, for both of us.

It's probably one of the hardest parts of parenting, letting your children live for themselves, get hurt sometimes. It's a necessary process of growing up, for them as children and for us as parents.

And even my little boys, gone far away so early, I had to really let them go at some point. Accept, say good-bye...

Please, viisit the website of Saying Goodbye, a charity that aims to help parents who have suffered loss during pregnancy or soon after birth.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Wednesday Witter #8 : the pink rabbit that was

When DDs 1 and 2 were small I regularly went through their stuff and gave to charity any toy that they had outgrown, didn't play with anymore or had never played with. That was the only way I could more or less keep on top of the mess.
These days I unfortunately don't do it often enough and I definitely can't keep on top of the mess. It would actually be more necessary than ever to declutter, the family having grown to 6 members and still living in a terraced, small victorian 3 beds cottage.

Anyway I used to do it and I was generally lucky in my choices, nothing got missed... until the fateful day when DD1 was about 5 and I gave away a very big, very pink soft toy rabbit that belonged to her and that she never played with anymore, only to discover that she actually LOVED it. It hit me during a parent-teacher evening at her school. She had written in her literacy exercise book that she was sad because she had lost her pink rabbit...

I felt wretched, drowned in guilt. I had caused her to be so sad that, at only 5, she had written about it!
I began a frantic search for the rabbit on ebay. I had given it via a collection bag so no hope to retrieve it from the charity shop. For weeks, months, I looked at hundred of posts for soft toys rabbits but not one looked close enough to the 'real' one for me. DH kept telling me that she would forget but she kept talking about it from time to time. Eventually I stopped looking and hoped she would indeed forget. By the way, I hadn't told her it was definitively gone, officially it was only 'lost'.

The time flew by as it does. DD1 still mentionned the pink rabbit occasionally and I would go onto ebay again. Suddenly my little girl was 9 and... still thinking about her rabbit (oh, the guilt for me!). I started looking again, not finding but thinking "I can barely remember what it exactely looked like. Will she?" Finally I found one that looked fairly like it and bought it. I put it on her bed and waited with bated breath.

She loved it. She did think it was the one from when she was small and she's really happy. At least she's happy although I'm still ridden with guilt. Of course I know - now - that I should have told her the truth from the beginning, as hard as it was, it would have been better, wouldn't it?
What do you think? Are you appaled or do you understand?!

PS: I shall have to delete this post one day, before she reads it!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Wednesday Witter #7: Another christening

Births and christenings.

They are always emotional times, and for me tinged with acute longing for holding in my arms my two missing babies.
Sometimes I expect the feeling, sometimes I don't. But it invariably finds its way to me and, when it catches me unaware, it hits me hard.

During our holidays we held Tadpole's christening in France. We met one morning with Deacon P. to choose the readings and hymns.
P. has known us for a while. He knew us when we lived in France and he's christened DD2 and DS. He generally gives us the book, goes through it with us, we exchange news about the children. His are grown up now but one of his sons was a Scout when I was a leader and he once came to stay with us in England.
Then he lets us get on with our choices in our own time.
Having been through 3 christenings we know pretty well which sort of readings and hymns we like. For one of the hymns we chose one of my favourite about the Holy Spirit. However we didn't have the verses of the hymns, just the titles. And I forgot that this lovely hymn always reminds me of my baby boys...

So there we were, the day of the Christening. Tadpole in her pretty white dress. We started going through the service (it was during the week, so outside of a Sunday service, just us), listening to the readings, singing.
And then we started singing 'the' hymn and that line : "A child's heart is enough to console a mother".

The thing is... The first time I was pregnant I was incredibly excited, by my bump first showing, by the first kick, the first scan, the first time I heard his heart. And every time I heard his heart was such a joy. Then there was the hospital and the silent heart monitor.
The night I was told that my baby had died, I had to think up a fantasy to be able to sleep. I imagined that his heart was beating so quietly that they couldn't see it on the scan. But when my baby would be born they would realise and save him... His heart would console me.

In my following pregnancies there was always the underlying fear that I wouldn't hear my baby's heart. I would feel relief at hearing the little drumming sound but not joy, not really. That was a difficult thing to grieve, the joy of expecting.

So... I hear this line and the tears come, silently. It's not anymore tears of grief, a fierce and loud spring. It is quiet but constant, a gentle stream that will always be in my heart, tears of sadness.

Happiness and sadness ARE so very close in life, always hand in hand.

Births and christenings.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Coincidence... or is it ?

Last time we made major reparations on our London Taxi was when one of the wings was badly damaged by rust. We managed to find a spare just when we were beginning to think we'd have to go for a fibreglass one. It was fitted on the car and we rejoiced to see the taxi hole free again.
I was then pregnant with DB and suffering from a bad bachache. Therefore I took the taxi to go and see a friend in our village when I would normally have walked. That was a couple of weeks after the new wing had been fitted on. I parked next to a small bollard, forgot all about it when I left and scraped the new wing...

This year we decided to treat our taxi to a complete renovation. All the bodywork was stripped off, treated, straightened, repainted and refitted on the car. It was a big and expensive job on which we had pondered for a while, finally deciding to do it rather than buy a new car.
Yesterday, less than a month since we've had the taxi back after the repairs, we all went for a meal at Pizza Express. Having just been on holidays we were not thinking of doing anything of the kind, but one of DH's work colleagues from abroad gave him some vouchers as a thank you gift.
You can see what's coming, can't you?
The small car park of the restaurant has got, all around, a very low fence. The said fence has got an almost twin a few inches away from one of its borders, running parallel to it and delimiting a footpath. When I reversed to park the car, loosing sight of the low fence, I took its twin for the
 car park one and went straight into the fence, denting the rear of the car... I was slightly under shock yesterday I think. DH was awfully nice about it too. But today I have felt awful and teary all morning.

Yes these things happen, but why just after spending so much money ?!!! These two incidents are also the only times I have damaged our taxi.
It just can't be coincidences. It has to be the evil work of some malign spirit!

When I was a child my grandmother used to talk about "bruches", some little house witches who take pleasure at tangling your hair while you sleep, making you loose objects, making a clean sheet drying on the line fall into the dust, that kind of things. In other words, some sort of pests.
Well, our taxi seem to have a knack to attract pests. Once we visited a goat farm in France and, when we left, all the flies of the farm seemed to have entered the taxi.
Recently, just before the big works actually, two mice had elected our taxi as their home.
So I think some "bruches" from the South West of France must have somehow found their way into our car and right now they're laughing their heads off while I weep.

Coincidence ? Ha !

Thursday, 16 August 2012

My Favourite place : the day I had to leave

When my parents moved from Paris to live in Normandy I was 8 and didn't want to leave our 6th floor appartment with its air that I deemed fresh enough for my needs, thank you very much.

But then I discovered the joy of living by the sea and one beach in particular. A little cove nestled between the harbour village of Barfleur and Gatteville-le-Phare.

Well, I already knew it as a holiday place but it quickly just became 'my' place. I loved the soft colours of dark blues, greens and greys, the often cloudy sky, the rocks, the lighthouse, the golden hour of sunset, the taste of salt, even the seaweeds and crabs!

Then 20 years later I fell in love and I had to make a choice. I chose to move away after 5 months of being some 800 miles apart with my love. Before I left I went to visit my favourite place and cried... I truly grieved for that place, and for living by the sea, in the following weeks.

I had placed one condition to my coming to live with O. : to leave Munich and move somewhere closer to the sea. O. found work in Basingstoke and we planned to live not far from the coast. We must have done 2 thousand miles in the first 3 weeks we spent in the UK looking for the right place. But the more we drove on UK's roads the more we thought it would be too much hard work for O. to commute on the busy motorway and would leave us too little time to nurture our still budding relationship.
We settled for Overton, a lovely Hampshire village, with a mind to go back to France in around 3 years.
I got pregnant and we lost our beautiful baby boy at 32 weeks of pregnancy.
That's when we really discovered Overton, when its people welcomed and comforted us like I honestly don't think we could have experienced in France. Our son was buried in the village's ground and of course it created a very strong bond between this place and our family...

That's how 11 years later we are still living there, my grief for the little beach I loved overcome by a greater sorrow. But things are changing again. What seemed impossible still a couple of years ago, leaving the village and our sons' grave (we lost another boy nearly 5 years ago) doesn't feel that unthinkable now. We've accepted that our family is missing two members but that they ARE still members of the family. They are not in the ground of our village but wherever our family is.

Life has had a way of putting out of my mind my favourite place. I have after all, in the last 11 years, being quite busy being pregnant and then nursing... or grieving.
Then last Easter, for my 40th birthday, DH offered me 4 days in a National Trust cottage in Cowes, on the seafront. It reminded me very much of just how deeply I love the sea and how I miss not living near the coast.

Now DH has much advanced in his career and could probably work several days a week from home. Our family has grown, grown enough (!), even outgrown our house. It would be nice to move within a couple of years if we can and we're thinking that maybe...

...the sea.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Wednesday Witter #6 : Hello again - trying to reconnect

I'm back ! It's been Silent Two Weeks for me as we have been on holidays in France with no computer, no network, nothing... I had the odd moment when I could access my accounts and post a tweet but mainly I have been very much out of it all.

I didn't miss (too much!) being literally disconnected. Well, a bit during the first week as DD2 got tonsilitis and we were stuck inside. But even when I managed to go online I didn't really feel the thrill of instant communication and realised I was disconnected in more than one way. I had, it seemed, switched off my internal communication tools.

Coming back the wish to be connected to the wider world has been coming back gradually, everyday life asserting itself again. Although now it is the world that seems to have switched off with me. My blog hasn't had so many visits and I don't know what people are talking about on Twitter!

It's funny how modern communication goes far in distance but is so very much of the moment. How easily can we be forgotten if our voice doesn't make itself be heard for a while ?!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Our week in Paris

I have been planning and talking of our week in Paris for a while and now I can finally recount what we really did and what fantastic memories we will have of our stay.

We arrived on a cloudy Sunday afternoon to be greeted by my cousin, two years younger than me, who I kept calling by the name of my son for our whole stay...

Another greeting, not quite as nice, was the characteristic French disregard for rules : two women, one with a toddler in a buggy, smoking right outside the train's doors, under the No Smoking sign. Ah well...

We'd already spent a week in Normandy and left lots of our thing at DH's mum's house, only taking clothes for three or four days in a large backpack. But there being 6 of us it was still a lot to carry on the underground, as well as inflatable mattresses, sleeping bags, a toddler and a baby!

It was raining and DD1 felt homesick. I confess having felt quite emotional too at leaving our beautiful gite and not having anymore time to spend with my parents. DD2 was poorly for half of the week in Normandy and, spending time with her at my parents', I remembered my own holidays at my grandmother's, enjoying a different kind of family life and not necessarily 'doing' much at all. But then my grandmother lived in an enormous 7 bedrooms house and even more enormous garden, whether my parents live in a council house.... But I will come back to this in another post.

Day 1

The Monday turned out sunny and warm and we started by visiting the Place du Carrousel. It's a place with a really special feel. At the heart of the city, enclosed between the aisles of the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries.
There was a fair in the gardens. Everything was duly overpriced, including the toilets.
DS reproduced perfectly his big sister's behaviour when we last visited Paris six years ago (DD1 was then 3 1/2, the age he is now), asking for a ride on a merry-go-round, then not wanting to  go on when the ticket was bought, then throwing a tantrum. 
DD2 went flying to the ground, star like, mashing her elbow and earning a dust covered front as well as a baby wipe 'bandage'. Bandage which was then adopted by the rest of the children (7 of them with or friends') except for DB.
We then set off to go to Notre-Dame via the grand Place de la Concorde, motivating the girls with references to Disney's Hunchback (sigh). We went on a bit of a wild goose chase looking for a bus that was supposed to take us from the Quai d'Orsay to Notre-Dame. We had spotted it but it was the one going in the wrong direction, so we started to go up the street to find the opposite stop, only to find out that it was a one way street... What can I say ? We were tired, Paris buses are tricky to find AND we were relying on my cousin who, albeit living in Paris has zero sense of directions... Well, the children got really tired but we found the bus eventually, arrived at Notre-Dame where the queue to get in looked infeasibly long (the downside of visiting Paris in August) but there was a little playground next to it  so the children were happy.
I am always amazed at the essential need of children to play and their forgetting everything once they are presented with even a couple of measly see-saws.

Day 2

Our two girls saw A Monster in Paris not long ago and we were keen to see the Sacre Coeur both to make a place they saw in the film come alive, and because it's a place of my childhood.
We went up the stairs.
"Look Children, your great-grand-father used to get down the stairs sliding on the banisters!
- Why ?"
We did the touristy thing of buying illegal ice-creams (the wrapper clearly stated 'Not to be sold separatly') from a street vendor and then had a moment of contemplation going round the basilica. Interesting mix, isn't it ?!
DB decided she wanted a feed after 2/3 of the way in the church and as we were going at snail place, stuck in the mass of visitors, the quiet was somehow disturbed for an agonising few minutes...
We went down by cable car.
"It's boring..." (DD2). Indeed it might not be the most exciting of rides...

In the afternoon we were meeting our friends (who'd been travelling with us from England to Normandy and then Paris) at the Cite des Sciences, Parc de la Villette, for a double session at the Cite des Enfants. The museum has now two different areas for children, one for 2 to 7 years and one for 5 to 12 years, working on just under an hour sessions. You have to book them in advance as they are very popular. During the session the children can visit and play in different stations about water, sound, light, air, image, movement, etc. The big kids even had a go at being part of a rock band !

Day 3

We had decided to set off early and go up the Eiffel Tower but once again the long wait discouraged us. Instead we went on a cruise on the Seine which gave us mixed feelings...
The view of Paris buildings from the Seine is superb but the constant commentaries a bit tiring. We realised too late that there is a service of 'Bateaux bus' which would have suited us better. But as it was the outing didn't match our mood, in part because of DD2 who felt tired and blue which is very unusual for her. She tends to be almost always cheerful or at least full of energy. It turned out that she just needed to eat something (note to self : remember to carry snacks, small muffins on a cruise boat are very expensive!).
We then joined more of my cousins for a picnic in a small garden 'de quartier'. C. has married a German guy and her two girls aged 3 and 5 both speak mainly German. It was hilarious to hear our girls (who speak mainly English) and them try their French while playing together.
We had planned to go to the 'Pestacles' rock concert but were too late so we went to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont's Guignol theatre. The Guignol puppet shows are not without similarities to the British Punch and Judy although when the Punch and Judy Devil takes the Bogeyman to Hell, in the Guignol version he takes the Policeman, tricked by Guignol and his thieving drunkard friend Gnafron. *hanging head in shame of French mentality*

Day 4

That was a busy day, starting with the local market where my cousin lives (Paris' open markets are well worth experiencing!).
We then tried the sandwich shop using products from Paris area farms, Label Ferme. Gorgeous! We went to eat our picnic at Paris Plage, Hotel de Ville. Maybe not such a good idea on a windy day (the sand, very dry, gets everywhere)... But the ice creams, extraordinarily good value (funded by the Ville de Paris) were fantastic, going from a classic chocolate to Violette, Rose, green tea litchee and Orange flower water with sesame seeds!
Then back on the underground Metro to go to the Josephine Baker swimming pool with a glance at the majestic four open books buildings of the Francois Mitterand library.
DS absolutely adored swimming while seeing boats go by on the Seine.
I hadn't factored that we needed swimming caps (compulsory) but we could buy some at the pool (a little souvenir too!). DS chose the bright pink one for himself.

Day 5

We couldn't go without visiting the famous department store Le Bon Marche, made famous by Zola in his 'Au Bonheur des Dames'. The toy department prompted DD2 to declare "I am in paradise!", followed by "I am definitely in Barbies paradise!!!" That says it all.

The afternoon was spent visiting the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes.The whole park is lovely and the children enjoyed seeing the animals.
At the cries of "I need ice-cream!" we went to the Mosquee de Paris, exquisitely exotic and serving a delicious mint tea. Fortunately the glass was empty when DS, getting tired and restless, accidently smashed it on the floor...

Day 6

For our last day we chose to go to the popular Jardin d'Acclimatation. I remembered it from my childhood for the maze (where I never wanted to go!) and the deforming mirrors. There is actually lots to do : fun rides, a little lake with remote controlled boats, camel rides (yes!), zorbing, animals, several playgrounds, swings, a big 'paddling pool' which isn't really a pool but a big space with jets of water, as well as a more gentle area with 'brumisateurs' (sprays of mist). Our older girls did a dragon ride, the camels ride and zorbing while our son thoroughly enjoyed the paddling pool, motor boats and a big cruise ship/climbing frame.

At the end of the week we were shattered but happy! We did have a really nice time and it was lovely to come back every evening to my cousin's flat and enjoy some grown-up time with 'aperitif'! DS loved B.'s place too, making a mess on the balcony by digging in the plant pots and waiting in the corridors until the lights went out and it became "very daaaark".

Happy memories...

Friday, 27 July 2012

Our Taxi

She's back ! Our taxi has been away in a body repairs workshop for 8 weeks, which has necessited adjustemenst to our timetable...
When possible we have asked for a lift from friends,we have taken the train, the bus. We have cancelled things. We have rented a car once to go to my two days workshop at the beginning of July (I'm training as a breastfeeding counsellor)..
DS played in the car and left the lights on. We had to call the AA to jump start the car when it was time to go back home !
When one of the girls has been going to friends' for tea after school we've had to ask for them to be brought back home to us.
We were not even 100% sure that she would be back in time to go on holidays !! DH actually just went to pick her up last night and we are catching the boat to France this afternoon. And even the pick up was a bit nerve racking. DH had called in the morning to ask if he could pick up the taxi at lunchtime but she wasn't ready... The workshop finally called at 4.00 pm to say that they had finished. DH was going to get to the workshop with one of his colleagues, who was in a meeting. The meeting ended at 5.00 pm, they needed 40 mn to go to the workshop and it closed at 5.30 pm. A bit tight, isn't it? DH called them and they agreed to stay open until 6.00 pm!

So finally she is here ! I haven't actually taken a picture of her yet but I think she looks pretty snazzy on that pic !
She's called Rocket by the way, according to our two girls of 7 and 9.
She's actually lost a while ago the silver lines on the front wings and doors, and her colour might be a bit lighter aftre her big "facelift".

The problem was that she was very rusty. We had had a few patch up repairs done but the rust was eating away at the bodywork. We were faced with the possibility to drive Rocket in that state until she fell apart, do something drastic, or buy a new taxi.
But the thing is you get attached to a car like this. We bought her when I was pregnant with Dear Angel 2. After we'd lost him and that DD1 insisted on planted an apple tree in the garden (she was 4), we brought the young sapling back in the taxi.
We've been through quite a lot with her...
When we asked for a quote to have her completely stripped off, rust treated, repainted and put back together again, and that the quote came back at £4,800 we did have a moment of hesitation ! But not for long. The thing is that the issue would have been the same with a new taxi (we would still have bought a Fairway, Rocket's model).
So, also the repairs came to the price of a new car, we decided to go for it. We think that these cars deserve to be kept in good condition and with the Fairways disappearing from London streets this year it's more important than ever.
We took a loan and drove Rocket to what was going to be her beauty parlour !
It turned out that the rust was worth than thought at first. They had to replace the wings with fiberglass ones but you can hardly see the difference. They also changed the windscreen with one of the FOUR available ones in all UK ! And they replaced the fixations for the fuel tank, which were very rusty too and were about to give way (we could have ended up loosing the fuel tank on the motorway, on our way to the boat for France!).

Here she is now, our beautiful taxi, off to France in a few hours. No doubt she is going to attract a lot of attention again. Last time we took her to France, we had been going for a swim in a small harbour town in Normandy and came back to find eight people around her !

I will update my Twitter account with pics of her "new body" so check @MotherGoutte !

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Wednesday Witter #3 : 85p of tomatoes

This morning Frog, age 9, went to buy 4 tomatoes from our local deli while I waited at the door. This deli also does light bites from breakfast to afternoon tea so they have a small plate for tips on the counter.

Well, after Frog bought her 4 tomatoes, for around I 85p, she then came out of the shop and told me proudly that she had put a £1 coin in the plate...

I have four children, ranging from 9 months to 9 years, and yet I am still amazed at how little they know. Well, I mean , I know it really! But I keep forgetting and being alternately surprised, amused or irritated by what they will do.

These 'simple' things pedagogs insist on being important to do with children, they're only simple for us and yes I do believe it's important to do them with children and to let them have a go.

 I found puzzling that the National Trust launched recently a campaign to 'reconnect' children with nature. What do we do differently nowadays with our children that created a need to make them reconnect with nature ? And do we do enough of the 'simple' thing ?

What better time to teach little, simple things to our children than during the holidays?! Whatever we do when we have time off work to spend with our children, there are still these simple things to do : shopping, little tasks, going for a walk, writing a note for the postman (another thing Frog did this morning in case the parcel she was expecting arrived while we were out!), or buying tomatoes !


Summer Holidays : Paris... on a budget!

I have already talked here about what I would like us to do when we go to Paris this Summer. But I omitted an important point : we are on a budget ! Yes...

So here is a post about visiting Paris without spending next month salary (and many ideas if you want to break the bank too!).

Getting there:
Eurostar boasts Paris tickets from £69 pp but you can't book more than 4 months in advance.
Easyjet offers fares from £52 pp.
We are actually travelling with Brittany Ferries, £548 to cross the Channel and stay two weeks in France. Train to Paris the second week, £180.

Accomodation :
We are lucky to have family who can put us up so no cost here. But you don't necessarily need to know someone who lives there to save money on accomodation.
On this website you can find a holiday home that won't cost you anything providing that you're ready to lend your home too. I personnally know a family who's been home swapping for years now and they've always been more than happy with their holiday home. You don't need to live in a 10 bed mansion either, there are many other factors that can help you find the right match : location, dates, availability of a car, attractions in the area, you can offer long week-ends as well, you can make your ad personnal and talk about your favourite restaurants, picnic spots or days out with the kids.

If home swap doesn't appeal to you, you could rent this in the heart of Paris for £583 a week, sleeping 4. I was actually quite surprised about just how much self catering accomodations are on offer in Paris.

Supermarket prices in France are not hugely different from the UK. For sausages and mash (4 Toulouse sausages, 1.5kg potatoes) and a bottle of Chardonnay you would pay €13.00 in a Monoprix.

You can eat lunch at the restaurant du Musee d'Orsay for less than  €20.00.
Or have a light lunch in Amelie's café Les Deux Moulins (couldn't find prices though).
Or why not try these Farmer's style sandwiches for €6.00 (an interesting, quirky website here!).

You can get a travel card called Paris Visite which allows you to make an unlimited number of travels by metro, RER and bus, as well as 10 to 30% or special price on attractions. You can choose between 1, 2,3 or 5 days for Paris centre or Paris, suburbs abd airports.
Prices go from €9.75 for 1 adult, 1 day, Paris centre, to €53.40 for 1 adult, 5 days, Paris, suburbs and airports.

You can also get a Paris pass which includes the Paris Visit travel card as well as free entry to 60+ attractions, for 2, 4 or 6 days (€34 for a 2 days child pass, €61 teens, €105 adult).

The Paris Museum pass gives you access to museums and monuments + Paris Visite travel card as well: €39 for 2 days, €54 for 4 days, €69 for 6 days.

Things to do that won't cost anything:

Sunbathing or doing one of the free activities on the programme of Paris plages.
 "Bouquinistes" along the Seine.
 Champ de Mars playground, looking up to the Eiffel Tower.
 Going up to the top of the 'butte Montmartre' in the cable car (included in Paris Visite travel card) and coming down the stairs.
Visit the basilica of Sacré-Coeur.
A number of free exhibitions here (the ones that say GRATUIT) if you can drag/bribe the children to go and see them.
Going to an open market.
All museums are free every first Sunday of the month.
Playing or watching 'boules' games.
Parks and gardens.
Visit the cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris

From cheapest to dearest:

Take the children to see Guignol (the French Punch and Judy) in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont: €3.50 per child and per adult.
Morrocan mint tea and 'patisserie' at the Mosquée de Paris : €4

A swim at the Josephine Baker swimming pool  : €5.00 (free with Paris Pass) per person.
Visit the Eiffel Tower : from  €5 adult, €3.50 over 12 years, €3.00 4-11 years, free under 4 years ( to go up to the second floor, taking the stairs).
Music festival for children at the Parc Floral, the 'Pestacles', every Wednesday: €5.50 (over 26 years), €2.75  (7 to 26), free under 7.
Cité des Sciences, Parc de la Villette,Cité des Enfants (2-7 years and 5-12 years) : €8 adults, €6 children
Paris d'enfants, guided visit (with a guide-interpretor) for families, choice of 50 visits and activities (treasure hunt, museums, buildings or areas of Paris) with a booklet for each child : €9 per person.
A stroll with a theme and puzzles to solve, here: €9.99 (to download from website. 1 price for all the family).
'Flight' in a static hot air balloon : from €10 adults, €9 children
La Ménagerie, le zoo du Jardin des Plantes : €10 adults, €8 children
Louvre Museum : €11.60
Discover Paris in a 2CV with '4 Roues sous un Parapluie' : €10 for a discovery tour of 15mn, €20 to have a ride on the Champs Elysées, €42 to go to the Eiffel Tower and have lunch in the tower restaurant, and much more.

Have fun !