Category Archives: Thoughts

Best of the West – five recommendations for under fives near Bath

five under fiveWhen you have children or start looking after them, you discover an area in a way you never did before. When you move house, you get to do it all over again. I’m really enjoying seeing what this area of the West Country has to offer families. Seven months in, here are some of my favourite day trips so far in the Bath area.

The classical one – The Roman Baths
This was a no brainer and it definitely doesn’t disappoint. I first went with my mum, a historian, when I was quite a bit younger and I still remember its amazing beauty and sense of place. Years later, I’m pleased to report that Scrip really enjoyed our visit. There were children’s activities to complete but what I found particularly good were the holograms of Roman people projected into some of the baths. It really brought everything to life. The Baths are very popular, so expect crowds.

The one for small children – Ugly Bugs
It’s cheap and cheerful and my two love it here. Plus there are fish and chips for lunch: what’s not to love? It’s not far from us in Warmley and, while it’s not plush, it’s clean and not too crowded as they stop entry when all the tables are taken. It’s also a manageable size so you can see the children at all times (unless they refuse to move from the ball pool, as Baby D sometimes does). It suits small children age five and under. Arrive early for half price entry.

The outdoors one – Westonbirt Arboretum
We came here for Autumn colour last weekend, but still found lots of green leaves after our Indian summer. It was still lovely. The treetop walkway was a highlight as was the den building area. With a newish walker on small legs we didn’t get very far in a few hours and we only scratched the surface. Dogs are only allowed in certain areas but we seemed to see quite a few of them along the way. Entry is quite pricey – as is the food – so it could be worth looking at a year’s pass.

The local one – Dyrham Park
My cousin – who grew up near Richmond Park – wasn’t particularly excited about seeing the deer here, for obvious reasons, but they’re still pretty exotic to me and you usually spot the fallow herd on a trip to Dyrham Park. It’s very close to our new house and it’s a lovely spot – a country house (currently being renovated) enclosed by swooping hills on the entrance and with more formal gardens behind. The play area has ride-on tractors (perfect for our resident farm vehicle spotter, Baby D) and there’s a nice cafe.

The Harry Potter one – Lacock Abbey
I’ve only seen one of the films (or half of one, I think) but some of Harry Potter was filmed at Lacock Abbey and you can see why they chose it. It’s a lovely, atmospheric building and it’s been a winner with Scrip on a few occasions. Downstairs is the 13th Century Abbey; upstairs is the Fox Talbot residence, which is interesting in itself but also because it was one of the birthplaces of modern photography. There are some good children’s activities, including a playground just outside, and lots for grown ups to see. Make sure you have a walk around the National Trust village, too.

Phrases I thought I’d never say

drying dayI’m back to my pre-baby weight now (it’s taken 16 months this time around) and am wearing so many more of my old clothes. I’ve also had a few days away with my grown-up family on my own and I had a bit of time (and sleep) which helped me realise I’m feeling much more like myself. Although it’s definitely a new version of myself.

I guess it’s a normal part of adulthood but the new me says things the old me might shudder at. And she says them without irony.

Along with warning my children ‘It will all end in tears’ (and knowing I was right) last week, these are a few utterances that have come out of my lips recently..

  • It’s a good drying day [seriously – when did the washing become the first thing I thought about as I opened  the curtains?!]
  • Oooh is it that time already [at 10pm]?
  • Are there any more good boxsets on?
  • Do you fancy a hot chocolate [not Horlicks quite yet]?
  • I’ll just whizz the hoover around.
  • Just a spritzer for me [and I actually mean it].

On the eve of my little girl going to school

Going to school

 

Tonight you let me wash your hair
No fuss, as if the water wasn’t there
You dried yourself and put nightclothes on
Tolerated the toddler’s evening fun
You chose two stories and patiently waited
You spelt out some words, really concentrated
Then I kissed my little girl goodnight
Set the gro-clock, turned off the light
And closed the door on our life so far
Four and half years of my biggest star.

You’re excited, apprehensive, keen to start
I echo your feelings, but there’s also a part
That can’t let that eager little one go
Feeling sadness I’m trying not to show
School’s like a marker, a new path we must find
And I’m worried we’ll leave a little bit behind
I know you must learn, and change and grow
The journey’s exciting and there’s a long way to go
But in a way I suppose you’ll always be
My bright, loving baby, indefinitely.

 

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Mummy Times Two

Haven or Hell – 7 spaces to embrace with kids

Haven or Hell with kidsLast weekend was a family one with grandparents, in-laws and Scrip and D’s cousin staying nearby. Just 17 months apart, the girls played together so well while Baby D padded behind, only being distracted by anything that looked like a ball, a coin or a stick…

An unsettled Sunday meant we headed out for the day to the Avon Valley Country Park, which was good fun. Despite the dry forecast it started to rain, so we made a beeline for the the indoor picnic area. A stark, temporary structure, I would have previously shunned this particular spot. Now, with soggy children in tow, it was a haven.

That made me think how I now see other spaces in a totally different light, post-children. Here are a few that come to mind:

  1. The supermarket cafe – once firmly avoided, now embraced. Good source of food bribes and generally offers a pretty cheap lunchbox.
  2. Service stations – formerly a necessity to be endured, now a little light at the end of a long tunnel (particularly if you tend to inhabit the M25 or A30 as frequently as we do).
  3. Petrol stations – ditto, on a smaller scale. A chance to stretch legs and stock up on chocolate buttons.
  4. WH Smith’s magazine/comic aisle – all that colour, all those cartoon characters, all that cheap plastic. So many gleeful smiles.
  5. Soft play – the noise, the smelly socks, the chaos…and the yelps of delight from children as soon as they enter. Although I still avoid busy times where possible and I follow my husband’s soft play survival guide.
  6. Ikea – and we haven’t even tried the creche yet! Children young and old seem to enjoy playing pretend houses and that’s before they’ve even got to the play area. I challenge you to try and leave without an oversized toy in tow.
  7. Pets at Home – is it just me or is this shop a great mini zoo/wildlife park for those of us who don’t even have pets? Just don’t try and feed the rabbits…

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In memory of Jo Cox

I sat down today to write a blog
Just a few thoughts about life through the fog
About work, about children, about my day
But then the news took my words away
I didn’t know Jo Cox, the female MP
Whose life was cut short so terribly
I know of her actions, her incredible drive
Her desire for peace, keeping hope alive
I know she has a husband whose recent statement
Was so touching and so eloquent
Also two little children who are far too small
To suffer so terribly from this all
What can we say? It makes no sense
There can be no amends, no recompense
No alternative parent, alternative wife
Just a void for the rest of their life
No replacement for her powerful voice
Trying to do good, giving positive choice
Attempting to bring the world together
Then suffering this now and gone forever
I hope in her name we can carry on
To overcome the hatred; it must be gone
And in the meantime we will celebrate
Her vast achievements, before this fate
A mother, a wife, a female MP
So special, so vibrant, an inspiration to me.

My irks with home working

Home WorkingIt’s been a tough couple of weeks, with yet more change and adjustments that need to be made, some much bigger than others. One of the positives (I’m starting to over-use that word) is Baby D’s new nursery which has so far gone well. I say new as after just a week’s notice (!) his first nursery closed its doors eight weeks after he started, and we had to find another one pronto and get him fully settled in. Thankfully, day one at nursery two went very well (despite the over-tiredness in the boy I put to bed an hour or so ago).

With both children in childcare full time, I had a day to work, work, work. I’m enjoying working for myself (although I have to say I’m now over the initial euphoria of being at home with a hot coffee and a laptop screen not being pawed at or slammed shut).

We’re creating a home office but in the meantime it’s the kitchen table, once the breakfast things have been cleared away. There are so many positive parts (that word again) to working for myself and I sometimes pinch myself that it’s actually happening. However, there are also the niggles that only come to light once you start. Here are a few things that have made me wish it wasn’t just me here today:

The printer – I consider myself reasonably tech savvy but I fail to be able to default to the right printer (why do I have a list of 15??), print on the right side of the paper or push page 20 of said paper in far enough to keep on printing.
My new email account – where’s the IT support when you need it? Answer – thousands of miles away on a virtual chat (probably answering a lot of other queries at the same time). I can receive but I still can’t send, a week later…
The workman’s drill – do you choose a day when there are no children to trip over pipes and wires or have a full day of drilling when you’re trying to have a client phone call?
The coffee overload – hot, freshly brewed coffee? Mmmmm. How many cups can I enjoy without getting the shakes? Not as many as I used to I realise as I bounce to the door to greet the postman manically.
The housework – not the temptation to spend my whole time doing it – the opposite. I feel like I need to make every moment of work count so I end up with a house messier than the days with the children plus a basket full of wet washing.
The mum guilt – it’s still there, niggling away. This isn’t a vanity project – I’m earning money for the family as well as doing something I hope I’m good at. Plus hopefully setting a good example for my children. But working from home feels the same as going out to work – you still get those moments where you feel you should be with your children, rational or not.

However on balance what a privilege to be able to do this and hopefully fit my work around my life rather than the other way around. I’m off to pick up the children (once the coffee shakes have subsided).

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A guide to turning one – by Baby D

A guide to turning oneBaby D’s first birthday has been and gone with all its ripped tissue paper, cake crumbs and crawling in and out of cardboard boxes. We were joined by family from both sides of the country and it was a lovely day, despite some worrying news hanging over us.

With Scrip, turning one meant so many things and some were similar to Baby D but some totally different. I keep getting told not to compare the two but she’s my only other baby template so it’s hard not to. With D, one year seems to have been a real marker and he’s been frantically upskilling in the last few weeks so he could hit the milestone with a bang.

So this is Baby D’s guide to turning the ripe old age of one year old:

  1. Reveal your lightning quick crawling and start pulling up on everything – particularly relatives. Remember, walking’s for wimps (but if ‘helpful’ people encourage you to try to walk, respond with stiff legs and an instant sitting position).
  2. Use this occasion as an opportunity to eat as much as you can (don’t forget, honey and runny eggs are now fair game). If there’s a party, polish off crisps and at least a few pieces of cake and hoover up any dropped crumbs quickly and efficiently.
  3. Grown ups are likely to be distracted with ribbon and nibbles so now’s the time to try and get into those places you’ve only ever dreamt of going. Like the understairs cupboard, toolbox or a peep inside the (hot) oven [yes, this happened].
  4. New toys are for exploring – namely banging together or throwing, whatever kind of toy they are. Ride-ons are for pulling up on or pushing over. And it’s important to move on from each toy with record speed.
  5. Lull your parents into a false sense of security with a few nights of sleeping through around your first birthday (‘we’ve finally cracked it!”) and then bring them down to earth with a bump the day after.
  6. Your sister is now fair game for hitting (hilarious), pulling hair (even better) or wiping your nose on (convenient).
  7. And whatever you do and however much mischief you cause, know that your family couldn’t love you any more if they tried.

Happy one year Baby D. 🙂

 

#MySundayPhoto – 10th April 2016

Dandelions and baby

This was the first time Baby D has ventured off the rug and into the wilds of our garden. The grass hasn’t been dry enough to cut since we moved in so it’s overgrown by normal standards, but the children love it. Scrip keeps picking dandelions and daisies for ‘Mother’s Day’ (bit late!) and D is enjoying the feeling of the grass. A happy, sunny afternoon this week.

OneDad3Girls

Breast friends? The good and the bad about breastfeeding

breastfeedingI almost called this post ‘my love/hate relationship’ with breastfeeding, but that would be too strong. I’m nursing an injury tonight from a teething Baby D who sneezed whilst feeding and bit down on my nipple. Ouch. I swore, he cried, and that was it for the evening.

I’m still breastfeeding him at a month short of a year, which has sort of crept up on me. Because I’m starting to work for myself there was no need to wean him earlier and I’ve generally found it a positive experience, convenient and useful – especially when he’s teething or under the weather. However, him not taking a bottle has meant there’s no let up and I’m not sure how weaning will eventually go.

I breastfed both of my little ones and I’m pleased I’ve done that – seven months first time around, 11 months and counting this time – but I was pretty sure I’d carry on come what may. We’ve been through thrush in my milk ducts (excruciating), tongue-tie and a shallow latch, and it’s pretty much never been pain-free with Baby D.

A family member recently said I’d inspired her when it came to breastfeeding her two, which was a lovely thing to say. For me it’s something I wanted to do, but haven’t necessarily felt the need to trumpet. I’m really happy to talk about it and give tips or advice or even have a bit of a moan after a nipple injury, but it wouldn’t be the first thing I bring up and I’d never comment on someone choosing or ending up with bottle over breast.

And the reality is, it can be hard. It can be painful and tough for both of you, particularly at an overwhelming and exhausting time. I credit a breastfeeding counsellor for helping me turn a corner with Scrip and continue when I was at a particularly low point. So I’ve been thinking about the good and the bad from my 18 months’ experience of breastfeeding two little ones:

The good

  • The closeness – particularly with Baby D as he’s a real wriggler and this is the only time he’ll be still in my arms
  • I love the snuggles in the early, hazy days where feeding mingles with sleepy cuddling
  • I love the contented look they have when feeding well. Baby D now catches my eye and sometimes gives me a cheeky grin (with his mouth full!)
  • It’s good to feel you’re protecting them with natural immunity
  • It’s helped me lose some of the weight, whilst eating cake or croissants
  • It’s a good comforter and a great way to get them back to sleep (not that it should be at this age, probably…)
  • It’s hassle-free – particularly in the middle of the night. No need for fussing with bottles
  • It’s free
  • I feel proud I’ve been able to stick with it

The bad

  • It’s something just for mums – and as D’s not been taking a bottle until very recently, I haven’t been able to share this closeness
  • It can be hard – it doesn’t always come naturally to you or the baby, so it often takes work. Baby D wouldn’t latch on one side for weeks and it could take literally half an hour and lots of tears for him to do it
  • It takes a while to get used to doing it in public
  • It can be painful and not just when you’re starting. After being tongue-tied Baby D has never had a very full latch and my nipples have suffered
  • It’s easy to worry you’re not producing enough milk or it’s not the right quality
  • You may get more green nappies!
  • Your body’s still not your own, even after pregnancy – you have to watch what you eat and drink
  • The early daily pumping can get exhausting
  • You get big, painful boobs when they’ve gone too long without feeding
  • Exclusive breastfeeding means they may not take a bottle, which might make it harder for you to have a break
  • You need to plan what to wear and stock up on nursing bras

Part of me is looking forward to winding it down and hopefully shifting the last of my stubborn baby weight. But the other part will miss it – especially if we don’t have any more children. So we’ll carry on for a bit longer and see where we end up. My mumnesia means I’ll no doubt just remember the good parts.

Shhhh – 7 secret benefits of children growing up

Kids growing upThe last day of my eldest being three. For the first time, I want to press pause. I’ve loved seeing her grow and develop and now she’s a mini person with her own personality shining through. She’s a buddy when we spend time together – until an irrational tantrum strikes. And she’s a real help with Baby D. I don’t want her to be a schoolgirl just yet.

But she’s excited about growing up and I’ve got to embrace it. After all, we have no choice. Instead, with Baby D himself heading towards the ripe old age of one I’ve been thinking about the kind of benefits of babies and children growing up that you wouldn’t necessarily share on worldsbestparent.com

  1. They start appreciating TV! Baby D watches more than his sister did, just because he’s with her a lot more. I caught him engaged in Peppa the other day. Hooray! (Obviously one for him to enjoy in between all the baby dance and movement, baby concert piano and baby Olympic swimming we fill our days with…)
  2. A box of raisins will keep them busy for a fair few minutes. All those tiny, sweet morsels. And then there’s the box to play with.
  3. You can tempt them to go for educational nature walks with the promise of muddy puddles.
  4. Play dates with proper friends give you a break and someone else to make you a cup of (hot) coffee, provided you don’t spend your whole time saying ‘gentle’, ‘gentle’ as they discover your friend’s cat.
  5. They master the word ‘babycino’ and artisan coffee shops are once again a part of your world.
  6. Nursery rhymes are the magic formula for the car, but you may have to sing along in ‘comedy’ voices if yours are anything like mine.
  7. Eventually they start scooting. Then you can actually get somewhere in adult time rather than allowing an extra 20 minutes for a ‘5 minute’ trip to the shops.

Any more to add? Promise I won’t tell.