> The Beesley Buzz: March 2015

Shared Parental Leave - Will it work?

I love the idea of Shared Parental Leave (SPL). It is being introduced from this April for babies due on or after 5th April or for babies or children placed for adoption from that date as a way of allowing parents to share leave in a way that suits them best. 

It means that "From April 2015, parents will have greater choice over how they share time off work to care for their child. Shared Parental Leave allows working couples to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay in a way that suits their work and family needs. For example, parents can take time off together or they can tag team, stopping and starting leave and returning to work in between if they wish." You can find out more on mumsnet here or directly on gov.uk here.

If this option had been available to us when J was born, I believe it would have had a huge impact on our lives. I was very keen to return to work but wasn't happy leaving my baby in childcare from such a young age. By using SPL and being able to leave him with Richard for part of the time would have meant that I would have been able to return to work without sacrificing my career.

It would have meant that we could have continued to be a household where both parents were working rather than so suddenly having to cut back and cope on one salary. 

It would have meant that Richard got to have more precious quality time with J and I would have felt happier that he was with his daddy rather than having to settle into childcare at a young age. 

It would have meant better emotional wellbeing for me as I would have my work to focus on to engage my mind and keep my brain active!

However, I think there are some stumbling blocks that could potentially prevent couples like us making full use of the flexibility that SPL offers. I did exclusively breastfeed all of my 3 for quite a long time and whilst I was a lot more relaxed about moving to mixed feeding for convenience when necessary by the time Miss T arrived, I don't think I would have been happy about giving up or cutting back on breastfeeding when J was born. I never managed to successfully express milk so expressing would not have solved the problem. I believe this could be a stumbling block to SPL for some. 

Richard had a different employer at the time of birth when each of our three were born and the power of organisational culture should never be underestimated. As we see in society time and time again, it doesn't matter what the law says, sometimes the unwritten rules of the culture of an organisation can have a far more powerful effect than the law. 

In one of his jobs, I could imagine SPL working well with the employer being flexible and encouraging of such things. But by the time D came along, he was working in an environment which was female dominated and the men there were older and so had grown-up children and it turned out that no-one previously had ever even asked about taking Paternity leave so they had to quickly work out their policy on it was when Richard asked. In his current job, the workload and demands of the job would make it very difficult to take SPL - but the flexibility that SPL offers may mean that there would be a certain time of year where it would work out. 

I can see how in some organisations, even if the employer encourages people taking SPL in their policies and at an organisational level, the reality may be different if it is something that is not fully embraced by teams and managers within an organisation and the unspoken pressure may be such that it makes it more difficult to actually take. 

Ultimately having that greater choice can only be a good thing and hopefully greater flexibility in all shapes and forms will benefit parents and employers in the long run.   


My cheeky monkey: A healthier option for happy hydration with Vita Coco Kids

My cheeky monkey received a very special delivery today...

It was a case of her most favourite drink ever... She recognised it instantly because of the 'cheeky monkey'.
And we had gasps of 'wow'. 'my favourite' as she opened the box and took a look inside...

We became big fans of Vita Coco Kids drinks last summer when we discovered that they were so refreshing on a summer's day and they tasted great too (and not just for kids - I regularly pack one in my packed lunch too). Miss T loves the fun packaging often asking for a 'cheeky monkey' drink or a 'coconut' which we've realised means that she wants a Vita Coco Kids drink rather than an actual coconut.

We've always been careful to encourage the kids to drink water and milk as their main drinks. They are occasionally allowed a fruit juice when eating out or a cup of squash when friends visit. I've previously thought smoothies to be a healthy option too but recently my eyes have been opened to just how much sugar is in various food and drinks.

We watched The Truth about Sugar on TV last week and it made me realise things that I had previously considered to be harmless and totally 'healthy' such as fruit juice, can actually contribute to us having a much higher intake of sugar than we should.

I was left a bit confused about what to do because there are times that you need to pack a drink in kids packed lunches and I want to opt for a healthy option. Both J and D take a packed lunch to school for a couple of days each week and each time we have a hospital visit for Miss T's arthritis I need to take a packed lunch for her as we never know how many hours we'll be spending at the hospital.

Thankfully, I feel a lot happier since seeing the 'Sugar Maze' - a handy chart designed by nutritionist Amanda Hamilton for Vita Coco kids.

It has really helped to reassure me that water and milk are the best options alongside Vita Coco Kids drinks which are another healthier alternative that can be included in packed lunches. I also feel more confident about knowing what drinks are ok as occasional treats such as fruit juice and flavoured milk. And to avoid things like 'fruit juice drinks' which are often deceptively similar to pure fruit juice in terms of packaging but actually contain little real juice and lots of added sugar.

So here it is for you to see too....I hope it helps you navigate the world of happy and healthy hydration for your kids....

There are a couple of really fab tips on there too that we'll be doing like freezing cartons of Vita Coco kids to use as lower sugar 'ice lollies' in summer. We could also make our own homemade smoothies as a healthier option to shop-bought ones.

Vita Coco Kids drinks come is two truly delicious flavours. My favourite is the Mango & Pineapple, whilst Miss T adores the Apple & Blackcurrant flavour. Vita Coco Kids is coconut water from young green coconuts (never from concentrate) and is blended with natural fruit flavourings and water with no added colourings or preservatives.

Vita Coco sent us a sample pack of their Vita Coco kids drinks. All opinions are our own and we have long been fans of the great taste of Vita Coco kids!

Siblings: March 2015

We got tickets for Emmetts Garden in Kent for the Kent Big Weekend and it was the perfect opportunity to get a Siblings pic for March.

I couldn't decide on my favourite pic so have included all 3...

I love this cheeky pic of Miss T sticking her tongue out. Despite everything that is going on with her health right now, I love how she still smiles and giggles and manages to be cheeky!

Notice those smart new boots! I owe a huge thanks to Hoad's Shoes who have just been amazing in helping Miss T find shoes that will work for her at the moment with her swollen left foot and right knee.

They helped find shoes that would fit last month and she was so happy to be able to wear shoes again after two months of not being able to.

But Miss T was still missing out when going on muddy walks or visits to the farm as her feet couldn't fit into her wellies and she can't bend the left foot sufficiently to get them into larger size wellies either.

These boots are waterproof so were the perfect solution as they also open really wide to get her foot in and out of them.

So thank you Hoad's for taking the time and trouble to get this right for Miss T - she can't be your easiest customer with her feet such different sizes from each other and the pain and stiffness she has - and yet you've managed to find a solution - thank you!

She's also loving her new jacket from Muddy Puddles - I'd been looking for a snow jacket for her and seeing the fab review on Emmy's Mummy, I knew it would be the right choice. We were so pleased with the super speedy service and the quality of this jacket.

As this is the very first jacket of her own (she's always had hand-me-downs from her brothers and from friends until now) it was an important decision to get a jacket that is perfect for her and we really are over the moon with it.

 Time to put those boots to the test...

And I love these pics of Miss T and Daddy who she always says is her favourite!

Linking up with Siblings linky:
dear beautiful

Heaven scent polenta cake

This weekend is a special weekend. Solar eclipse, Spring equinox, solar flares....yes all that makes it a special weekend but it is also Iranian New Year which always falls on the first day of Spring. With my Iranian heritage (my late mum was from Iran), I grew up celebrating Iranian New Year each year. It carried the excitement of a second Christmas, with its own traditions, tasty treats and gifts galore but, being in March, it carried with it the promise of better weather rather than a cold and dreary December day. 

Although Iranian cuisine is, in my opinion, one of the best in the world, baking doesn't usually feature heavily in it. So I wanted to take some of that Iranian inspiration and pour it into a cake I've created to celebrate this special weekend. But this is no special occasion cake - once you've tried it, this is a cake you'll want to bake and eat each week! 
Ingredients like saffron, pistachio and cardamom, with their heavenly aromas (if there is a scent in heaven it's bound to be the fragrant smell of cardamom) have led me to name this cake 'heaven scent polenta cake'. It might not be a show stopper of a cake to look at but your kitchen will smell divine and your taste buds will thank you for the treat. 

Although you might think some of these ingredients sound somewhat exotic, you'll be pleased to know that you can get hold of them all at the supermarket. 

Now you might expect a cake like this to be laden with calories (and ordinarily it would). But I've been trying to cut down my calorie intake and so in place of a whopping 180g of sugar, this cake needs a mere 18g of Canderel. 

You can use Canderel in recipes as follows:
In volume terms use 1 tablespoon of Canderel to replace 1 tablespoon of sugar. 
In weight terms divide the sugar quantity by 10 e.g. 100g sugar = 10g of Canderel

So without further ado here's the recipe I've created...

200g ground almonds
100g polenta
Pinch saffron infused in 90ml milk
200g softened unsalted butter
18g Canderel
3 large eggs
1 and a half spoons baking powder
50g pistachios - ground
Ground cardamom (seeds ground from 12-15 cardamom pods)
A few extra pistachios and some edible rose petals to garnish

For the rose water cream:
300ml double cream
2 tsp rose water
2 tsp Candarel 

1. Grease and line a 7 inch springform cake tin.

2. Preheat oven to 160C (fan).

3. Beat butter in a mixer until softened. 

4. Prepare the pistachios by grinding them using the mill attachment of a food processor. 

5. Prepare the ground cardamom by removing the seeds from 12-15 cardamom pods and crushing the seeds with a pestle and mortar. 

6. Prepare the saffron infused milk by crushing a few strands of saffron with a pestle and mortar. Then mix into the milk and gently warm in a pan.

7. Combine dry ingredients (with the exception of the Canderel) in another bowl. So you will have the ground almonds, polenta, ground pistachios, baking powder, and ground cardamom combined.

8. Then alternately add dry ingredients, then an egg, then more dry ingredients until all combined. Pour in the saffron infused milk and mix well. 

9. Finally, having saved the best until last as they say, add in the Canderel and mix. The mixture will look quite thick.

10. Place your tin onto a baking tray, pour in the mixture, and bake for 35-40 minutes in a oven preheated to 160c until cooked through. 

11. To make the rose water cream, whisk the double cream until thickened. Add a tablespoon of rose water and a tablespoon of Canderel and whisk until combined. 

12. Serve slices of your heaven scent polenta cake with the rose water cream and garnished with pistachio slivers and edible dried rose petals. You can also sprinkle with a light dusting of Canderel just as you would with icing sugar.

This is a great cake recipe to try if you're trying to cut down on those calories or reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. We are generally very good at cooking our savoury meals from scratch to avoid that hidden sugar in jars and sauces but we've struggled to reduce sugar content in baking, which is why I decided to invent a cake recipe using Canderel.

You can find loads more baking and cooking inspiration on the Canderel website with a whole section dedicated to recipes. Thank you to Canderel for sending me a jar to use as part of this recipe along with a voucher to buy the other ingredients I needed.


Even 2 year olds can get arthritis

Miss T left foot swollen (shown here on right of photo) - This is miles better with medication than original swelling
In 2014 we had a happy healthy toddler. She loved to draw, cook, run around, play and do all the toddlery things that toddlers do. I blogged about her milestones each month - first steps, first words, her favourite things to eat, funny things she said.

In 2015 we started the year with a little girl with a broken foot (or so we thought). Yes it was a pain. She couldn't be bathed, couldn't go swimming, missed lots of her favourite toddler groups and activities. It was a huge strain on my back given my problems with arthritis. But we all kept our chins up and kept smiling knowing it would all be over in a few weeks. Even Miss T did not once complain about being in plaster even though we could see it wasn't much fun for her having to be stuck in her buggy when out and about and be carried around the house unable to walk. 
Swollen Right knee (shown her in left of photo)
3 months on and we have a little girl whose foot has still not mended. As well as her swollen left foot, she also has a swollen right toe and as of a couple of weeks ago a swollen right knee. 
Swollen Right toe (shown here on left of photo)
She's bravely had numerous X-rays, multiple blood tests, a full body bone scan, an ultrasound scan and an MRI under sedation. 

This week we saw the orthopaedic consultant to hear the MRI results. And finally a diagnosis. They had suspected juvenile arthritis given my history of arthritis, but the results of pretty much everything else weren't matching up with their suspicions. Finally the MRI showed synovial thickening in the right knee and left mid-foot and ankle. 
under sedation for MRI
She's now been discharged from the orthopaedic consultant and we are awaiting her Great Ormond Street appointment with the rheumatology team there. 

So finally a diagnosis.

In many ways a relief that it is nothing worse, but at the same time a feeling of sadness that she is only 2 and she's having to go through this.

Without the strong anti-inflammatories and pain relief medication she is currently unable to walk. So I find myself thankful that the meds are working and enabling her to walk (and even run around sometimes!) but I hate the fact that she is taking stuff so strong that I get third degree questioning each time I pick up her medicine from the pharmacy with them reminding me that it is unlicensed for children and asking what exactly is wrong with her to be taking such strong medication. I hate that she is having to take additional medication to protect her stomach because her meds are so strong. I hate that I have to give her sweets for breakfast to help her take her medicine because it tastes so yucky.

And I know this is just the tip of the iceberg. The treatment options are worse. The side-effects can be horrendous. She's in for a tough few years.

I wrote most of this up a couple of days ago but couldn't bring myself to hit publish. The blog is my happy place, where I escape to, where we store happy memories to look back on.

But then yesterday I heard of another little girl. Like me, it was a year to diagnosis for her. She'd been told it was 'growing pains' and then it turned out to be arthritis. If it's left too late, the damage to the joints will be done. Another reason that I'm glad that at least Miss T has had early diagnosis and early referral to Great Ormond street for treatment.

And I decided that it is about time for parents, doctors, nurses, health visitors, schools, in fact everyone, needs to realise that people can get arthritis at any age. Children can get arthritis. Even 2 year olds can get arthritis. So I hit publish.
A happy photo of Miss T - although arthritis will affect her life, we are determined not to let her life to be defined by it

A few more notes on arthritis:
In Miss T's case, she has had swollen joints, with multiple joints affected and affected joints feeling hot to the touch. but this is not always the case. When my arthritis started at age 10, there was no swelling and nothing visible to see.
Although blood tests can be done to look for inflammatory markers etc. sometimes these blood tests come back negative and still the person can have arthritis.
The incidence of arthritis in children is 1 in 10,000 so a lot of people (including medics) think it is so rare that it is unlikely to be arthritis. PLEASE PLEASE consider whether a child could have arthritis as early diagnosis and early treatment is key to preventing irreparable joint damage.
These are just our experiences of Juvenile Arthritis and this is not medical advice so please consult your doctor if you have any concerns.
Information about Arthritis and JIA (Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis) can be found at Juvenile Arthritis Research and for clinicians and medics at http://www.pmmonline.org/

I have switched off comments for this post - I know lots of people wanted to wish Miss T well after my last post about her foot where I switched comments off but I don't want sympathy - I just want people to know that arthritis is not an old people's disease. Thanks for understanding.


Leek and Chestnut Mushroom Stroganoff with Wholegrain Basmati and Wildrice

With some items needing to be used up in my fridge, I was planning to make a stroganoff. Then things looked even better when a parcel of Tilda goodies arrived from their new range. I decided to use the wholegrain basmati and wild rice in my stroganoff to make it even better!
We loved making recipes from Tilda's Mood Food manual recently, but I also love coming up with my own recipes so here's my yummy stroganoff recipe that you can have either with lamb or without for a veggie option. We had some leftover roast lamb so included it in our dish. To make this recipe healthier, you can swap the double cream for yogurt or Creme fraiche. 

Ingredients (we made enough for 4 people)
Tilda wholegrain basmati and wild rice (allow 60g per person)
1 red onion
1 and a half leeks
200g chestnut mushrooms
Double cream (around 200ml)
Groundnut oil
Large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and black pepper
Leftover roast lamb pieces (optional as you could have this dish meat-free)
Green beans

1. Cook the Tilda wholegrain basmati and wild rice according to pack instructions. I actually used my own method to cook the rice by placing the desired amount in a large microwaveable bowl, covering with cold water to a couple of centimetres above the level of the rice and then microwaving on full power for 35 minutes. 

2. Finely slice the red onion and the leeks - I used a food processor to ensure it was all finely chopped. Then gently fry until softened in a little groundnut oil in a frying pan. 

3. Slice the chestnut mushrooms and add to the red onion and leeks. Continue to cook until the mushrooms are softened and start to brown. 

4. Once the rice is cooked transfer it into a large pan with the leek, red onion and mushroom mixture. Add the cooked lamb if desired. Then add the cream, stir through and season with salt and black pepper. 

5. Roughly chop the fresh parsley and add to the dish. Serve with boiled or steamed green beans.

The stroganoff can be made with leftover meat
or without meat for a veggie option

Thanks to Tilda for sending us their new range to try. You can find out more about Tilda rice here


Bake Yourself Happy and Healthy: Sugar free Spelt and Chia Seed Cupcakes

You'll know from all our Kids in the Kitchen and recipe posts that we love to bake in this household. There is something about baking that helps your worries melt away. Whether it is kneading your frustrations away whilst baking bread or the satisfaction that comes from mixing together ingredients and ending up with something delicious at the end of it that you made yourself with your very own hands. There's no doubt about it - Baking is therapeutic.

I haven't always found it this way. I avoided baking for many years as it all seemed a bit technical and I worried whether the magic would work for me. Would my ingredients come out the oven looking fantastic or would they look a mess and be destined for the bin? With a bit of trial and error along the way, now I find that I love escaping to the kitchen to bake a tried-and-tested recipe or get creative and invent my own recipes.

And that's what I'm going to share with you today, my own invention - a (relatively) healthy cupcake recipe which includes much raved about spelt flour and super ingredient chia seeds. With the sugar-free concept also hitting our radar strongly this year, I've used honey in place of sugar as a healthier alternative.

These make cupcakes that can pass as a tasty and healthy alternative to the more traditional Lemon and Poppyseed cupcake - with Chia seeds providing that lovely texture to the cakes.

110g butter (at room temperature)
100g honey
2 eggs
150g self-raising flour
125g spelt flour
90ml milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4-5 tsp Chia seeds
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tablespoon of sour cream (or make your own by mixing milk and lemon juice)

For the lemon cream cheese frosting (optional - as this bit is not sugar free):
125g soft cheese
250g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Juice of half a lemon

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C or 160C (fan).  Line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin cases.
2. Mix together the butter, eggs and honey (I used a mixer with a beater attachment but you could mix by hand if you need to).
3. Weigh out the flours and baking powder.
4. In a jug, mix together the milk, lemon juice and sour cream and add in a little at a time alternately with the flour until all the liquid and all the flour is incorporated.
5. Then fold in the lemon zest and chia seeds.
6. Spoon the mixture evenly between the muffin cases. (If you want to make daintier cupcake ones you can use smaller cases but I wanted enough room for the frosting to set smoothly on top).
7. Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

As I didn't have any sour cream, I made my own by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of milk and leaving for around 5-10 minutes. I then used a tablespoon of this in the recipe (you can use the remaining sour cream to make fluffy american style pancakes if you don't want it to go to waste).

For the cream-cheese frosting simply beat together the ingredients. This makes quite a runny mix so that you don't need to worry about piping skills, you can spoon the frosting on top of the cakes when they are cool and then decorate with a sprinkle of chia seeds or other decorations.

Tasty cupcakes without the guilt!

This is my entry into the Mumsnet search for a Sanctuary Spa blogger. 


Paris 2015

Over half term we decided (pretty last minute) to have a few days away in Paris. These are my notes written up mainly at the time. If you're looking for a quick read, click away now, this is NOT a user friendly blogpost and breaks all the rules about maximum word count.

It is a diary of our holiday for the kids to read and look back on - so it is loooong and I don't expect anyone else to read it all the way through.

Wednesday 18th February 2015
We decided to fly as it made it more of an adventure for the kids and cost less than Eurostar.

Remember to pack light with Easyjet because even though we'd paid for 1 piece of baggage hold luggage, it would have cost £20 extra for going 2kg over the 20kg weight limit. We just popped a couple of pairs of shoes across to hand luggage instead.

When we booked our few days away, we didnt realise that Miss T's foot was a long term problem. Neither had we banked on her getting a deep gash to the head needing an amblance trip to A&E only two days before our holiday. And nor had we banked on her getting a random nose bleed at Gatwick airport and dripping blood all over my jeans.

They all enjoyed the flight and we felt a sense of satisfaction navigating our own way to the hotel using the trains and metro. The boys also loved the 'double decker' trains you get in Paris.
The kids loved the novelty of double decker trains in Paris
The boys had really wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and although it had been a long tiring day and it was way past their bedtimes, there was a hugely enthusiastic 'wow the eiffel tower' as we exited Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel metro station to see the stunning sight of the Eiffel Tower at night.

And as D had pointed out that Paris was supposed to be a romantic city, there was time for a quick kiss.
From there it was a short walk to our hotel where we picked up some sandwiches for dinner at their on site snack shop and then got to bed exhausted.

Thursday 19th February 2015
Woke up to a promising sunny day in Paris. It was cold but sunny. We went for a little explore and found the nearby Parc du Citroen and the Paris hot air balloon. This is very weather dependant and thankfully we had not included it in our plans as it wasn't flying today.

We picked up some sandwiches for lunch from the Monoprix around the corner and bought some swimming trunks for the boys at M&S in the nearby shopping mall. Upon checking into the hotel we'd been told that swimming trunks as we know them in the UK (i.e. swimming shorts) are not permitted in the pool and only what they consider to be proper swimwear is permitted.

Afternoon involved seeing the Eiffel Tower close up and then looking down on it from Tour Montparnasse which is taller and far less busy than the Eiffel Tower.

at Tour Montparnasse
from the top of Tour Montparnasse
Upon returning to the hotel the boys were looking forward to their swim and were extremely disappointed to be told that the pool was closed until 8.30 pm for aquaerobics.

This came as a huge surprise as we had checked the pool opening hours prior to booking and again upon arrival and told it was open until 10pm weekdays.

Not only is it closed regularly throughout each day for classes but also has a maximum capacity of 15. The hotel has hundreds of rooms (over 800 apparently) and so a maximum of 15 was another disappointing surprise. Even though the pool is located within the Novotel hotel grounds, it turns out that it is run by a separate organisation.

That's where a further swimming pool disappointment came... The main reason we booked Novotel was for the pool. Having stayed at Novotel hotels in the UK with stunning pools, we were expecting the same Novotel standard here but the pool is more like a run down public pool rather than the stunning luxury pools that Novotel hotels that we had stayed at previously boast.

Due to the changes in swimming plans, we ended up with a room service dinner. It's not worth splashing out on the Benkay bento meal but the other meals were fine albeit the 25 minute timescale we were advised of becoming a 50 minute unexplained wait.

Friday 20th February 2015
Woke up to a rainy day in Paris so we decided to do an indoor activity. We headed off to the Palais Decouverte for a day of science discovery. We'd read that the planetarium and lectures were in French so didn't bother with these but there was still plenty to see and do and there definitely was a whole days worth of activities there.

We had a slightly stressful journey back with customer service on the Metro leaving a lot to be desired. The gate which Miss T's pushchair fits through at the metro station was locked and unmanned (as seems to be the norm). There is a call button where they are supposed to open the gate. I got hung up on several times despite my increased panic in my voice as J and D had already gone through to the other side of the barriers with their tickets. Even when a helpful local lady buzzed and explained in French that we needed to get through as we had a buggy they hung up on her too!

With everything going on with Miss T's foot, its not to easy to get her in and out the buggy as her swollen foot doesn't even fit into a shoe at the moment. She is still having to wear the 'shoe' that she had when she had her plaster cast but we had to find a way to get through and ended up having to do lots of lifting the buggy over and lifting Miss T over. It seems a ridiculous situation to have this system where buggies and wheelchairs cannot get through when they need to and yet plenty of people evading fares are hopping over and under barriers all the time.
Miss T still not in proper shoes so makes walking really hard
Back at the hotel the boys enjoyed 20 minutes of free internet access in the lobby and a free crepe which was to celebrate school holidays if I understood correctly. The Novotel staff were great (it is such a shame about the swimming pool let down and I have since emailed them showing them photos of the mould thinking they would like to know to improve the standard to match other Novotel pools but they didn't seem too bothered so perhaps that is the norm for the standard of Novotel in France which differs hugely to the UK which had suberb pools). It's also a shame that there is so much smoking wafting through the lobby area as people stand just outside and smoke.

Another success for today was managing to place an online order for Dominoes pizza in French. We had a bit of an uncertain wait not even being sure if they would take the delivery address to the hotel seriously but we were all pleased when our pizzas did indeed arrive.

Saturday 21st February 2015
More rain today so we thought a trip to the Pompidou centre would be good. D is really creative and into art so we thought he'd love it but he'd decided that today was the day to get homesick. That today would be the day to moan and shout at the top of his lungs that he hates Paris. He hates the dog poo in the streets. He hates everyone smoking. And he wants to go home. It wouldn't have been so bad if his shouts hadn't echoed throughout the entire escalator corridor system of the Pompidou centre. A visit to their coffee shop and 1 cookie and 1 apple juice later and he was feeling back to himself again.

We ended up just getting the tickets for the view and not the galleries at the Pompidou Centre. Kids are free anyway so it makes a great value activity but the coffee shop is pricey. You can get into the building without tickets so you can have a pitstop at the coffee shop and a toilet break even if you don't want to see the rest of it.

The weather just got colder and wetter as the day went on. We showed the kids the Louvre but the queues were too long to contemplate going in. We always have to consider queue length because of J's asperger difficulties. We also saw Place de la Concorde and spotted l'arc de Triomphe in the distance.

Making our way back to the hotel we found the free crepes happening once again which was perfect go tide us over until dinner.

Dinner was a selection of sandwiches and salads from M&S.

Sunday 22nd February 2015
At last better weather today. It turns out I stopped writing notes at this point so the rest is from memory.

We had heard about the Pet and flower market on the Ile de la cite so we headed over there after a leisurely breakfast. It is the same area as Notre Dame. Again avoided going into Notre Dame because of queue considerations.

I'm not sure if it was due to the sunshine or weather this really is a beautiful part of Paris but we really enjoyed just seeing the scenery in these parts.

Then we headed across to Ile Saint-Louis where there are some lovely little shops, tea rooms, gift shops, galleries and chocolate shops.

Although the famous Berthillon Icecream parlour was closed, the kids got Berthillon ice creams from another tea room which they really enjoyed.

Then a swim at the Novotel pool. Although as already mentioned, the pool was a huge disappointment overall, this was the first day Miss T was able to go swimming after the cut to her head so she enjoyed it. We had to wear swimming hats and when she saw herself in the mirror she said 'I wear chefs hat like Daniel' as she often sees D in his chefs hat for cooking.
Sunday evening was a BIG night for us...It was the evening that I had booked Eiffel Tower tickets for. It was cold. No it was bitterly cold. And windy. And I wish I was somewhere warm and not high up. And the queues were long. Very long.

Having pre-booked tickets meant we didn't have to queue to get our tickets but that was just about the only benefit as once you are through, the queues were horrendous. It was the height of inefficiency.

Buggies had to be collapsed and so daddy had to carry Miss T for ages. And because of her foot and the crowds she couldn't stand herself so needed to be carried.

J and D were brilliant despite how difficult the queuing is for J.

Was it worth the queues for a few minutes at the summit of the Eiffel Tower? In my view not. But for the kids it was a huge thing ticked off their bucket list.

On the way down we stopped at the first floor because the boys wanted to see the glass floored sections. It was VERY quiet on the first floor and the stairs were empty. Miss T needed to go down in the lift but the boys did the steps down. My advice for anyone thinking of doing the Eiffel Tower...forget the summit, avoid the lifts, just do steps to first floor. It's still high up and you get to see lots but avoid the queues.

Monday 23rd February 2015
Our last day. Our flight wasn't until the evening so we wanted to make the most of the day with a visit to the Chocolate Museum.

The Chocolate Museum was probably the first place that we came across that was truly geared up for tourists and had the sort of customer service standards that we take for granted in the UK.

It is a little out of the way, with the nearest metro station being Bonne Nouvelle, but definitely worth a visit.

It was educational, interesting, and fun. There was a trail for the kids to do. There was a lift for the buggy to get to different floors. And at the end there is a short demonstration and you get to taste chocolate!

Excellent demo
 The demo was really good with the chocolatier making an effort to explain things in English especially for our benefit. We were worried about missing our flight so got a bit worried when the previous demo overran but instead of having our final hot chocolate drinks at the museum, we brought them home with us to have later (it was one of those cubes of hot chocolate that you stir into hot milk and they had various interesting flavours).
tasting chocolate!
I'd probably put the Chocolate Museum as number 1 on my list of things to do in Paris so I'm really glad we ended our trip to Paris on a high with lots of chocolate involved.

I know this is an incredibly long blogpost...but a few words more....It was hectic doing Paris with kids in tow but I'd packed my Alive! multivitamins I've been taking to help keep up my energy levels. I know Alive! are keen to hear about all our adventures whilst taking the multi-vitamins so they'll be pleased to know they helped me in Paris.

Gatwick airport deserve a huge thanks as they were amazing in providing Miss T with special assistance upon arriving back in the UK. Because the buggy only arrives back this end with our baggage, they sent a wheelchair and airport electric buggy vehicle for Miss T to take us right through to the baggage reclaim. Superb service - that was such a big help!

We were upset to see that Miss T's stroller had got damaged on the return flight home. I thought for a moment that the savings we'd made by flying Easyjet would now have to be spent on a new buggy but we had awesome service from James at Damagedluggage.com in sending out a new stroller for Miss T to replace her broken one. So our faith in Easyjet has been restored.

If Miss T's condition turns out to be a long-term one then we may well have to look into getting a special-needs style buggy for older children as the footrest on her new one isn't quite in the best place to support her foot. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Final pic of the Eiffel Tower - we really were staying pretty close to it which delighted the kids.

Linking up with #AllAboutFrance linky at Lou Messugo:

Lou Messugo

Linking up with Coombe Mill Country Kids (ok so Paris isn't countryside but we did spend a lot of time outdoors):

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

and with the next #Pocolo at Vevivos if I remember to link up as has been too long since I last linked up:

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