The children and I are spending three weeks in the South of France with my mum, my nan and limited Internet access. Bliss… Fruit and vegetables are so much tastier than those we eat at home, every meal feels like a treat. The sun is shining; it is warm but not too hot (29ish degrees Celsius), the sea is averaging 23°C and it is not as busy as I remember it from my childhood summers.
Wriggly (1 year 2 months)
· You are spending more and more time standing up.
· You have just started saying, “Stop it!” I guess you have reached that stage; not quite toddler yet but not a baby anymore, when everything looks like a new adventure to you. To me, every one of your new moves look more dangerous than the previous one.
· You love food and at the moment, you are eating eating as much as your sisters, if not more.
· Long car journeys make you angry. The drive to the South of France was not your happiest moment.
· Rock music generally soothes you. Like your siblings, you start dancing on the spot as soon as you hear the first notes of the songs you are most familiar with.
· Just a few hours after we arrived in Canet, you pulled the tablecloth on the side table and fell over, breaking one of your front teeth in the process. You were back to your happy, funny self within minutes. You are such a little trooper!
· You sleep well until 2 a.m. every night, then you feed, feed, feed until morning, leaving me exhausted. I have now decided you had had all the benefits you could get from breastmilk. It is now time to move to cow’s milk, me-thinks. My mum bought a bottle for you a couple of days ago, and you really love it! It does not mean you are completely ready to say “Bye, bye” to your much-loved breastmilk, but apart from potential night feeds, bottles it is from now! With two strong women like my mum and my nan around, I am less likely to be weak and give in.
· You have been on the beach a couple of times and you are not too sure whether you like sand or not.
Jumpy (2 years 9 months)
· You love playing superheroes with your siblings, blankets on your back held together with an elastic band or a peg.
· Your elocution is getting better and better, so much so that your big sister casually declared, “You speak really good now.”
· As we arrived at the ferry port and people were rather slow in front of us, you exclaimed, “Come on, sweetheart!” You are turning into your Daddy!
· You have dropped your afternoon nap. I knew it would come at some point, but I did not expect it to happen overnight.
· You have become really helpful, dressing the table, putting things in the bin, carrying a shopping bag etc.
· You just took your nappy off one morning, and decided you were going to wear pants rather than a nappy. Fair enough! There have been a few pee puddles here and there, but overall, you have been pretty good at toilet training yourself. You certainly are one determined little person.
· Your mood swings are getting difficult to manage at times and you scream an awful lot. People’s looks and my family’s comments are making me wonder whether there might be something wrong. Are tantrums normally that bad? Is it normal? Is it too early to worry?
Beanie (4 years 10 months)
· You really want to know how things are made, what animals feed on, where they sleep. You recently asked us how to make a boat, a sofa, socks, plastic etc.
· You told me one morning, out of the blue, “I wish I was a real fairy!”
That made me wonder… “What would you do if you were a fairy?”
“I’d turn people into frogs.” Of course!
· You must be the most creative and quirky little soul I have ever met. As we were driving to the doctor’s, you announced, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a chicken.” I replied, as you do, “It’s good to have ambition, my darling!” I really wish I could bottle up your innocence and joie de vivre.
· Your latest way of announcing things is: “I have some good news and I have some bad news. The bad news is there’s a chair on the sofa. The good news is we’re going to France soon.”
· I just realised something. You are yourself. One hundred per cent of the time. You do not try to fit in, conform or adapt to what people want. You are yourself I love that! Please do not change. You make us laugh so much (when your ultra-confident nature is not infuriating, that is!).
· Just one more: “I want to marry a car. I want to marry everyone.”
· You had your first swimming lesson all on your own, and you received your 10 meter badge!
· Your glowing pre-school report shows you are good at playing on your own, initiating activities, playing quietly or acting out stories, singing, encouraging others, volunteering to help, running around and climbing.
· You make new friends in two minutes flat and you tend to befriend adults really quickly as well with your great sense of humour.
· On the way to France, you started teaching your little sister how to speak French. “OK, ciel is sky. You repeat? Ciel!”
· With us, you are not always as docile as you might be in school and when we ask you to do something you are reluctant to do or refusing to give you a snack straight after lunch, the word “stupid” becomes your catchphrase. “Stupid potatoes” and “stupid mother” were heard yesterday. Nice!
Crevette (7 years old)
· Your school report made us really proud.
· You fell in a pond on a day out with friends. That gave you (and all of us) a big fright. That definitely reinforced my belief that being confident in the water is vital.
· Out of all of us, your immune system is definitely the best. Viruses tend to shy away from you, but the day before we left for France, Norovirus came uninvited. Even when you were at your worst, your kind, gentle nature was still there. You kept telling us not to come too close to you so you would not make us sick, and you even apologised for being unwell. My little baba, so frail yet so caring…
· You are wise beyond your years and more thoughtful than most people I know.
· You are incredibly proud to be French and you love food. You rarely refuse to try new things (unless it is cheese) and your favourite delicacies of the moment are mussels, baguette and butter, seafood, saucisson and salted caramel ice cream.
· Your French is so good I doubt anyone could guess you were not born and bred here. That makes me more proud than anything else could. Being fully bilingual is such a gift. Some things still leave you puzzled, like when you were trying to translate ‘smoked bacon” to your Mamie and told her about bacon having a cigarette.
· We were lucky to have a family friend at home for a couple of weeks. Solène was like a breath of fresh air and her enthusiasm towards anything to do with the children really made me want to keep her at home with us for good.
· I have found taking photos in RAW life-changing!
· My friend Ness organised a nice treasure hunt for the children in a park we had never been to. We had a wonderful afternoon.
· Beanie, Crevette and I had a brilliant afternoon baking delicious goodies in Wandsworth.
· After our bad experience at Carluccio’s in Pinner, my formal complaint was taken seriously. The whole family was invited for brunch at their Watford restaurant, and I have to say the staff there really took Jumpy’s allergies seriously, even taking me to their office to check the list of ingredients, which was not available on their IPad. They were as diligent as ever and really looked after us.
· We were lucky to be invited to the screening of ‘Inside Out’ and it is safe to say we all loved it.
· We are now in the South of France. Hubby spent a few days with us, but warmth is not is cup of tea, neither is a busy seaside resort or a crammed flat, so he is now back home getting the house ready for our upcoming loft conversion.
· As we were watching a programme on TV, ‘Les 30 ans du Top 50’ (similar to ‘Top of the Pops’) and I kept singing. Beanie, who was enjoying the programme, told me to stop singing, and Jumpy declared I had to stop dancing (I was singing, not dancing!). Wriggly was standing, holding on to the coffee table and wriggling her bottom. Crevette enjoyed it so much he did not go to bed until midnight.