So a few people have told me that there is no such thing as a vacation with small children.
These people are telling the truth. This post will be scattered, because I am scattered. We've been here nearly 72 hours but I'm still not quite sure which way is up. One thing I am sure about- you know that place where you live? Take it from me, the place where you live is fantastic. It's great. You love it. You never want to leave. There is no need for you to go on a long plane journey with your kids, ever. The rest of the world isn't worth it. Trust me. (Joking- sorta).
If you don't trust me - here's reason #1 why you should stay home: Fake Aeroplane Night. What is WITH this? I'd forgotten that airlines seem to think that once you're in the sky, it's night time. Every long haul flight, no matter what time of day it happens, no matter which timezones it crosses, seems to begin with lunch and then immediately segue into this odd, pitch-black affair where all the cabin lights are turned off, the shades on the windows are compulsorily down and the stewardesses only talk in whispers. FYI: this is not ideal when travelling with bored toddlers. We got on a plane at 11.30am, and within two hours it was too dark for our children to play with any of the myriad toys that I had lovingly packed (in identical pairs) into ziploc bags. Unfortunately, it was not too dark for them to kick and scream, or jump on things, or try to destroy the aircraft. Also - the A380 is weirdly quiet. I was counting on engine noise to drown out their yelling but it didn't work and - this may be the only time anybody has ever used this sentence - I really wish our plane had been louder. We did have a laptop for videos and two old mobile phones (these were GREAT in the dark - wonderful, wonderful idea, thanks Shonda!!!) but I don't think they have ever behaved with quite the level of naughtiness that we saw on our first flight. I know it was hard for them, etc etc etc, but it started in the car on the way to the airport (seriously, Pink and Blue?) and by the time we were flying over Turkmenistan I was filled with a hollow, aching rage and inches away from storming the cockpit and demanding that the pilot turn the plane around or at least give me access to an ejector seat. We were stuck in oppressive, whirring darkness with two children we were utterly unable to control, fielding angry glares from the other passengers and trying not to shake them and say 'if you think you can do better you are welcome to do a few hours of mid-air babysitting, pal'. There was a moment of relief when they finally, finally, FINALLY both went to sleep, but within sixty seconds - sixty seconds - the seatbelt light came on and we had to remove them from their bassinets to comply with safety regulations. Something to do with the oxygen masks. Because obviously, by the time the oxygen masks are dropping from the ceiling, everything is going to be fine, and we are totally not going to die at all, and it's really really really going to matter that my kid is in a bassinet. (If you are an airline safety engineer and know a good reason for this rule, I'm afraid I don't want to hear it - I'd rather stay mad about this). I told the stewardess - if you make me wake this boy up I guarantee he will scream at you for every remaining minute of this flight - but she did make me get him up and the whole experience went from tortuous to apocalyptic as I held him, screaming, through the rest of that too-dark imaginary night. Next to me, Pink slumbered peacefully on J's lap and he kept making a face at me, the one that says 'can't you keep your kid quiet? I've got a child here who's trying to sleep, you inconsiderate woman'. It's a good thing it's not possible to file for divorce in mid-air, is all I will say about that particular experience.
After a few not-too-bad hours in Singapore, we got on our next flight and had - you guessed it - lunch, and were then plunged back into night again, although it was 10am in the country we were leaving and midday where we were going. Fortunately all the yelling on leg one had so tired the children out that they fell asleep as soon as the bassinets were fixed to the wall. I got out my phone to take pictures of them - finally, finally, finally sleeping - and before I had put the phone away the seatbelt light came on again. Horrified, we decided to see if we could get away with sitting there quietly and not doing anything. Ummmm.... 'no' is the answer to this, for those of you ever planning to fly Singapore Airlines. The stewardesses began to mass behind us in battle formation and I'm afraid I started to ugly-cry. "They haven't slept for about 23 hours" I wept "and I just cannot doooooooo it. I cannot wake them up. I can't beeeeear it" and then I put my head in my hands and sobbed, because nothing says 'mature, successful, in-control woman' like boo-hooing at the top of my voice in front of a few hundred airline passengers. Anyway, they clearly cover this kind of emergency in stewardess school because five minutes later they had found us enough spare seats for both children to stretch out and stay asleep, where they then slumbered peacefully for the next five hours while my blood pressure returned to normal. They also obviously designated us as 'high risk for crazy' because they then kept on offering me extra drinks, snacks, blankets and crayons for the kids and nobody even batted an eyelid when Blue threw his brand new Dora the Explorer toy watch at one of them during landing.
Oooh, sorry, that was only supposed to be a few sentences but once I started it seems I just couldn't stop. Anyway, I'm glad that's out of my system now. And of course, now that the flight is finally over it is so good to be here. So good. Watching my kids play with their cousins is just the most fantastic feeling. Blue is particularly crazy about his oldest cousin and is having the time of his life with her as his new tickle-partner. He loves to roughhouse, and Pink hates it, so for once he is getting enough rough and tumble and she is getting enough personal space. They remember their grandparents, which I wasn't really expecting and is both really nice and a little scary. Whose says tinies don't remember stuff, huh?
Anyway. Scattered. We still are. J and I seem to be taking it in turns to not be able to sleep, which is making it hard for us to do ordinary things like finish sentences, or drive. I've already broken one of my mother's plates; fortunately not an expensive one. The babies are sleeping strangely well, or perhaps we're just so deeply asleep when we are asleep that we don't hear them when they wake up.
And then - last night we had our first ever allergic episode. After dinner I looked over at Blue and he had a fat lip. I looked again and saw that it was a really really fat lip and getting fatter, and that his face was covered in hives. Within seconds his eyes started to swell and suddenly I'm thinking about anaphylactic shock and asphyxiation and I start to totally. freak. out. Fortunately my Dad is a doctor and realised it wasn't serious or life-threatening so we didn't have to take him to the hospital. Unfortunately my Dad is a doctor and realised it wasn't serious or life threatening so didn't quite realise how dramatic it seemed to me. For while I was standing there thinking my son's face is swelling up WHY IS NOBODY PANICKING??? I guess they thought I was doing enough to cover everyone else. It was utterly terrifying and although it didn't take long to find out that his breathing was fine and he wasn't in any real danger, it's one of the scariest parenting experiences I've had so far and triggered ugly-cry #2 for this trip. And of course, we had no antihistamines with us after what happened last week gave us The Fear. He was so uncomfortable and itchy that we decided to risk the crazy and bought him some more - a different chemical, and fortunately it worked fine and didn't send him off the edge. I'm not sure we would have noticed if it had, though, because later the same evening my tiniest niece took a dive off the sofa and opened up her forehead on my parents' coffee table. She's just come out of general anaesthetic to be stitched up, and my sister's two eldest are staying with us at my parents' while my sister and brother-in-law stay up at the hospital with her. That certainly put our not-actually-anaphylactic-shock episode in perspective. We're all incredibly glad she's doing well, but it's been an extremely rough 24 hours for her and my sister and her husband.
There's other stuff going on too, which I'll write more about when I'm in the mood to make jokes about gene-linked cancers. Nobody is sick, there's just a lot of stuff I need to think about, and it's already been the cause of ugly-cry #3, although I suspect that was partly due to jetlag. Did I say it was really good to be here? It is, but it's been a bit draining too.
I think I'd better go and make another coffee. Or look at hotels online.
I need a vacation.