The Empty Days…

It hasn’t happened that much recently but there are times when I find myself alone with my children – I mean completely alone, no hope of a play date or a even a family member to help out for an hour or two. There will be stay at home mums out there laughing their proverbial arses off reading this I’m sure – what self respecting parent would find one day alone with her own kids so challenging?

I could give lots of reasons: they are two and (just about to turn) five; they are boisterous boys; the eldest is highly strung (two small dogs attempted to “enthusiastically greet” him in the park yesterday and he almost jumped up onto my shoulders whilst screaming hysterically!); the youngest has a habit of throwing things… the list could go on, but actually, maybe I’m just not good enough as a mum – not enough planning and organisation when it comes to getting out the craft materials; sometimes to be seen engrossed in the social media whilst they start fights with other small children over plastic spinners at playgrounds (I blame the new iPhone); giving in too easily to the demands…

So I’m being completely honest here – long days on my own with the pair of them (the hubster being a shift worker) do occasionally fill me with dread.

Having said that our day yesterday was filled with ordinary moments that make it ok. I took them down to the local playground on their scooters and enjoyed watching EJ define his own scootery style (bottom stuck out, right leg pushing and then drawn right up, hovering as the momentum carries him forwards). They had their obligatory ice lollies and happily played for some time (EJ insisting that I “sit down” instead of hovering around him at the top of the slide). Then we went home and put EJ down for his nap before heading off to their favourite soft play later where I ordered them some ‘healthy’ food – some of which actually got eaten!
They had a ball playing hide and seek in there with some older kids whilst I learnt how to download a book on my iPhone.

Bedtime was trickier with an almighty meltdown after JJ dumped a big towel in the bath with his brother – cue two over tired, naked children running, screaming and, in one case, weeing on the carpet. *sigh*. At least it all ended in a group cuddle on my bed, a child under each arm allowing their mummy to soothe and comfort them, stroke their fluffy heads and tell them how much I still love them despite their, frankly, deranged behaviour…

This was just an ordinary, unplanned day full of little challenges, but also full of love and laughter and cuddles and despite being left completely frazzled and wine o’clock coming far too late, I know these days will be over in the blink of an eye so I’ll focus on the fun, funny, silly, ordinary, yet extraordinary moments and the overwhelming love I feel for my two cheeky monkeys.

Linking up to The Ordinary Moments over on Mummy Daddy and Me Makes Three.

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The Black and White Photography Project: Love…

Love

There aren’t many things worthy of being photographed in my house, much as I would like there to be. This little sign was a gift a while back from my sister and I think it’s really cute. It also looks fab in black and white!

Linking up to the Black and White Photography Project over at Podcast Dove.


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An afternoon at Trilakes

Trilakes

Firstly please excuse my stolen photos here – yet again I turned my camera on to find it out of charge *sigh*. Such a shame as there were some wonderful photo opportunities!

Trilakes (or ‘Jake’s at Trilakes’) is a venue in the Blackwater Valley close to the borders of the tri- county zone between Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire. There are a number of lakes near Yateley and Sandhurst and amongst these lakes is this play zone which consists of an indoor soft play and an outdoor space around and amongst the lakes with play equipment, farm animals and birds which you can feed.

I’d been stuck indoors all morning and going slightly stir crazy so I suggested this little outing to the hubster as we’d never been before despite having heard about it from a couple of friends over the years. It’s only about a 15-20 minute drive from us and I knew the hubster wouldn’t be up for indoor soft play so it was always our intention to stay outside (fortunately, there was enough sunshine for that to be an option!).

When we arrived we discovered that what I’d described as ‘a nominal fee’ for the outdoor bit was actually £14 for the four of us which would have been ok if the play equipment had been a bit more up to date and the facilities a bit nicer although having said that there were elements that the children really enjoyed and the luxury as an adult is in the beautiful setting which you don’t get in your average playground.

JJ’s favourite bits were the ‘animal passports’ they give you on entry which have boxes for pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and ponies and you have to search out each animal and use the stamps provided to fill your card. It took us ages to find the ponies & rabbits!

There were also a couple of activities – a (very small) bouncy castle and a little ‘pan for gold’ area – which had additional charges which I thought was a bit cynical on the part of the business given that they charged a fair amount for entry already.

At its worst the place feels tired and a little run down – even the poor peacock looked like someone had attempted to rip out it’s tail feathers – but at it’s best it has wonderful views out across some very pretty waterways – vibrant pink water lillies drifting on twinkling surfaces with koi carp slipping in and out of sight, and a backdrop of tall and varied trees giving you the sense of being somewhere a little bit special and magical.

Waterlillies at Trilakes

One word of warning though – lots of easily accessible bodies of water and toddlers don’t always mix! This is not somewhere where you could let your guard down for a second – I recommend a second pair of eyes (preferably in the back of your head!).

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Love the Little Things 29th August 2014

Read

A landing on the Sun

This week, after recently finishing ‘One Step Too Far’ I decided to steer away from more properly ‘light’ summer reading (the summer is after all, more or less over) and I clicked into another book I downloaded on my Kindle several months ago: A Landing on the Sun by Michael Frayn. Frayn wrote one of my favourite books, ‘Headlong’ so I knew I would like his style of writing which tends to take you right along on a journey with the main character, as if you are inside their mind and a fly on the wall to their thoughts and discoveries. I was introduced to this book after reading The Happiness Project back in February and it was one of the books on the recommended reading list so, despite the fact that it is set within the walls of Whitehall and deep inside the grey civil service there is an element of mystery and intrigue and I’m fascinated to know what the secret ‘strategy unit’ project is and how it relates to happiness.

Watched

GBBO

After tonight (Thursday!) I’m hoping that I will have had a chance to catch up on this week’s GBBO. I love that show and I also love puddings so this is right up my street!!

Heard

I’ve quite enjoyed listening to Scott Mills and his partner in crime Chris Stark filling in on the R1 Breakfast show this week. They have the potential to be genuinely funny.

We’ve also been treated to several new words from EJ whose language skills are finally picking up!

Wore

Fave winter boots

I rediscovered my current fave winter boots this week which is a bit of a sad thought – August isn’t even over yet! I also wore my raincoat quite a bit during the first part of the week when we were treated to a brief reminder of last winter’s floods.

Made

Epic fail on this front! It’s been one of those weeks where it’s either non-stop children or work and not much in between.

And lastly…

Cousins!

We finally got a chance to catch up with my sister in law and nephews this week. T is ten so quite a bit older than my two but O is just a couple of months apart from EJ and it was lovely to see them play together and make friends (for the most part!). We took them swimming on the rainy bank holiday which was fun and then were treated to lunch by my mother and father in law. They are moving back to the UK from Germany this week and waiting for their new house in Wiltshire to be ready to move into so we had the opportunity to share two days in their company before I had to return to work.

I have been finishing off my last purchases for JJ’s upcoming pirate party and need to make sure I have everything in hand during the coming days.

The most exciting delivery of the week however, was my new iPhone which is the first Apple device I’ve ever owned believe it or not! I’m still trying to get to grips with it at the moment but I love the look and feel of it and I’m so excited that I will finally be able to properly use apps and set up an Instagram profile! Get me – dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century!

Happy Weekend Little Loves

 

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Word of the Week: last-minute

Last-Minute

This week myself and the munchkins were meant to be going up to Suffolk to visit my great friend who we had been meaning to visit back at the beginning of June but had to postpone due to the untimely onset of chicken pox. Unfortunately a number of factors came together this week which meant that it would be impractical to visit once again and so I found myself cancelling two days of annual leave at work at the last minute and scratching my head over what to do instead on Monday and Tuesday (when our childminders would be on holiday). Fortuitously, my sister in law and nephews were in the area, having returned from their home of five years in Germany to move into a permanent home down in Wiltshire today.

My eldest nephew is ten – five years older than JJ, but the younger is just a couple of months older than EJ at two and it was our first proper chance to get them together now that they have flourished into little people in their own right and not just babies any more.

On Sunday we invited them all round to our house for a barbeque which went well until all four children piled onto our trampoline and we only realised that the zip on the safety net was undone when we heard a little head hitting the ground below! Cue the swiftest end to a barbeque ever as all of my in-laws rushed my little newphew to a&e just to be on the safe side! It transpired that he was fine which was a relief!

The following morning myself and my sister in law took the children swimming at the leisure pool, Spectrum, in Guildford and they had great fun on all the slides, before my mother and father in law took us all out for lunch. The second day it had been my (last-minute) plan to take the children to BirdWorld near Farnham, intending to cash in some Tesco Clubcard Vouchers, but hadn’t foreseen the absolutely torrential and relentless rain or the fact that you have to be a bit more organised than me to do the Clubcard thing as they send them through the post. In the end we spent the day hanging out with the family at the in-laws house with a brief foray to a local playground and Sainsburys for supplies. Not the most exciting day in the world but the main thing was that the children got to spend some quality time together and I appreciated the chance to get to know my sister in law a bit better – busy lives and far flung locations have meant that we haven’t spent much time together at all in recent years.

The second part of my week has seen a last minute delivery of my new iPhone 5c! It’s my first ever Apple product and I’m still getting to grips with it and trying to figure out how to do various things but I’ve got high hopes for what can be achieved and so excited to finally be able to get an Instagram profile and get more active on Twitter after two years stuck with an older generation Nokia Lumia Windows phone which allowed for nothing much more than email, web browsing and the usual music, phonecalls and texts.

Everything really has felt so unorganised in recent weeks, with schedules and meal plans and play dates all just thrown together randomly. I’m hoping that next week, with the advent of JJ’s first (half) week at big school and the return of our childminders things will start getting back to normal and I can get on top of a few neglected tasks.

Have a great weekend WOTWers X

Memories of summer…

JJ with newborn EJ

JJ and EJ summer 2013

JJ and EJ summer 2014

If I look back into the dim and distant past, prompted by thoughts of summer, the images that pop into my head are generally sun bleached childhood holidays, building ‘nests’ out of dried cut grass on the school playing fields and that feeling of freedom that always came with the school/college/university holidays. I also have a summer birthday which was shared with my aunt and my grandma and so it was always a family affair with early August garden parties and a general air of celebration.

Summer always seems to be a time of happiness and contentment, fun and laughter, which is interesting because it isn’t always the happiest of times. In recent weeks I have had some very negative and worrying thoughts and feelings but you can guarantee that, years later, I will only remember the good bits.

At the height of summer 2012 EJ was born. The birth and those first few weeks will forever be a time of mixed memories – the euphoria of the birth, the relief that he was clearly going to be an easier baby than JJ had been and that we formed an instant bond, combined with a lot of issues surrounding the amount of time away from home that the hubster had signed up for with the advent of the 2012 Olympics.

With growing children, each summer changes so radically year on year as 12 months of early years development is such a huge leap. I have gone from nursing an infant throughout the night in 2012, to the relative calm (before the storm!) of a one year old taking his first wobbly steps, to the full on experience of having a walking, running, climbing, talking, brotherly-interacting two year old. Life has become both easier in some ways and harder in others.

Summertime, long days and sunny weather allow for children to do so much more and experience so much more of the world. Now that JJ is about to start school I also feel the pressure is on to provide opportunities for even better, more exciting memory-making experiences during the holiday periods.

From this point onwards summer memories are no longer about my happiness but that of my children.

Linking up to The Prompt for this week’s writing challenge: Memories of Summer

 

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Toddlers and Teens in Devon: Part 3

If you haven’t already had the pleasure of reading about how we found ourselves at a ukelele festival, getting squirted to hilarious effect at Teignmouth and my nieces attempt to cross the channel in a £17 dinghy then pop back to Toddlers & Teens in Devon parts 1 & 2.

Part three sees us visiting the beautiful ( if questionably named) Cockington, having a close encounter with a Great White at Living Coasts in Torquay and splitting up briefly for some solo activities.

During the week we were in Torquay there was a Country Fair at one of the local villages – Cockington. It was on a Wednesday which seemed a bit weird to me (I assumed it was mostly for the benefit of tourists like us). Cockington is a pretty little place with history dating back to the iron age, an 11th century church and a huge ‘bowl’ field running up to the house at Cockington Court – a stately home built on the site of a medieval court. The village itself is now home to several arts and crafts workshops and an ancient forge – you can see everything from glass blowing to chocolate sculpting (guess which one the toddlers and teens liked best?!). The ‘picnic’ we ended up having consisted of hotdogs and chocolate fish and chips!

As all the rides and inflatables were very expensive we didn’t end up staying too long in the end. The place was heaving and we had to queue to get out through a gap in a hedge!

That afternoon we took a walk down to Ansteys Cove from our hotel near Babbacombe. The cove is what you might consider a perfect place for smuggling – tucked into a kink in the Devon coast as it is, surrounded by cliffs. The rocky, pebbly beach was perfect for exploring (albeit we had to purchase some little rubber soled wetsuit shoes for the boys to protect their feet). Even so JJ still managed to gash his knee against the rocks during a deep wade! Meanwhile, EJ just revelled in picking up the biggest heaviest rocks he could manage (blimey that boy is strong!) and hefting them into the sea! At one point I found myself carrying him precariously from rock to rock as he urged me onwards in an attempt to catch up with JJ and his cousin before I had a sudden vision of pitching headfirst into the water and dashing the poor boy’s head against the outcrop (I didn’t but this thought was enough to send me rapidly shorewards!).

Later we saw a dog owner take a little swim in the bay whilst her poor water-shy pooch stepping stoned it to the furthest rock, skittered and barked furiously until they were reunited.

The following day was our last in Devon. It was the day before my birthday and my mum and sister had got together to treat me to a couple of spa treatments at The House of Beauty in Wellswood where we were staying (according to my mum’s Torquay- based friend this was, traditionally, the ‘upmarket’ part of the area and still has a couple of nice little cafes and a deli as well as a lovely pub – the Kent’s- which *gin alert* ladies!! – specialises in gins from around the globe ( I really wanted to like ‘Death’s Door’ from Wisconsin but actually preferred Tarquin’ s Cornish Dry…) But I digress.

House of Beauty

In the morning my mum and sister packed the boys up and took them off on an Odyssy of train and bus rides up the coast to Dawlish whilst my dad and nieces trekked back down to Ansteys for a kayak adventure and I meandered down to Wellswood to let the pampering commence! After I was done it transpired that the kids were all still out doing their various bits so I took myself down to The Kent’s and had a lovely salmon bagel whilst reading my book. Glorious birthday treat! On my return to the hotel I ran into the dad and nieces who were hungry so we went back to the pub (goodness knows what that bar maid must have thought!) and I had a yummy dessert whilst they tucked into their sandwiches.

We then drove down to Torquay’ s version of the sea life centre, Living Coasts, and met up with my mum, sister and the boys. My mum and dad opted for a rest at the lovely cafe complete with a wrap around balcony sporting stunning views out across the bay, whilst the rest of us headed inside for close encounters with penguins, otters, seals and a very friendly octopus!

The entire place is covered by a huge high net and one area to the next is separated by those doorways covered by hanging plastic flaps. Apparently plastic flaps are more interesting than otters *sigh*.

Devon plastic flaps

Soon after the otter experience JJ informed me that he needed the loo which sent us off on a wild goose chase through the entire exhibit to the very end to find the nearest toilet ( where JJ pointed out to me that someone appeared to have completely missed the toilet with their number two – not quite sure why this particular part of the experience was so memorable!). Then we retraced our footsteps to join the others for a chance to get up close and personal with some seals, protect EJ from a random duck which took a dislike to him and pecked his leg (notice the accusing finger in the picture!) and witness a shark attack!! (Only kidding but this anamatronic beast was enough to scare the living daylights out of JJ whilst his cousin was happy to oblige with her best ‘terror-stricken’ pose!).

And then the fun ended and the following day we all returned home. Thanks for reading!