Monday, 27 May 2013

Legopolis

One of the things that happens when you move in together, get married and have children, is you merge your Lego collections (unless either you grew up before Lego was invented or your parents threw it all away when you left home)! Our daughter recently turned three and we have just introduced her to Lego.

I had a modest collection: half a dozen road base-plates, some bricks and a few people. There were one or two incomplete space models too and a couple of instruction leaflets. My Lego is multicoloured.

My husband had a much larger collection (a sign of a well-spent youth?): lots of space Lego, castle Lego, not many bricks, many moving parts. It's all grey and blue and medieval.

[Note: any gender stereotyping inferred by the above description of our respective Lego collections is unintentional - in the 80's "girls'" Lego hadn't been invented yet. The relative paucity of my collection is due to my parents' understandable reluctance to part with the huge amounts of money that awesome Lego costs - no matter how much I asked for Lego kits, the answer was always no!]

We have thrown it all into a 32-litre plastic crate and shown our daughter how to build. She mostly likes to fill in base-plates with bricks, tessellating pieces of the same size, or to build towers all of one size of brick.

My husband suggested that someone should sort the Lego out. So I did. It took almost a whole day (and if I'm honest, there's still loads more that I could do!) and I learnt a few interesting lessons:
  1. 30-year-old Lego smells funny
  2. 30-year-old Lego has a lot of bite-marks on it!
  3. 30-something-year-olds still like to play with Lego
  4. Various non-Lego items find their way into your Lego collection (marbles, bits of toy cars, fake Lego, plastic figures, etc)
  5. There are lots of small pieces that are IMPOSSIBLE to separate
  6. It's really easy to break a nail trying to separate said tiny pieces
  7. It's equally easy to develop thumb callouses from repeated separation of tiny pieces
  8. We still don't have enough Lego to build a city...
...but look what I made after my daughter went to bed!
(elevated moon base, complete with sentry-controlled gated entrance, flagpost, mail depot, space laboratory, floodlights, landfill site, swimming pool with diving board, and moat - oh yeah! Just like on the real moon...)

Sunday, 26 May 2013

There were three in the bed and the little one said "I'm hungry"

Middle of night: Mummy wakes up to the sound of crying. Tearful wails of "Mummy!" reverberate around the upstairs of the house. Mummy slides out of bed and puts on extra clothes. Mummy finds Toddler sitting up in bed. "Had a bad dream." Mummy settles Toddler back into bed with toys and comfort blanket, strokes hair and kisses forehead. Mummy sits on the floor by the bed and waits.

Mummy needs a wee. Mummy creeps to the bathroom and remembers not to flush so as not to wake Toddler. Mummy goes back to bed. Mummy's head touches her pillow. Crying restarts.

Mummy gets up again and goes back to Toddler. Toddler wants to sleep in mummy's bed. Mummy just wants to sleep, so consents. Mummy knows Daddy won't be best pleased.

Three in the bed. One big, snory one on the right; one small, wriggly, not-sleepy one in the middle; one big, can't-get-back-to-sleep one on the left.

"What time is it, Daddy? I want breakfast!"
"It's the middle of the night, go to sleep."

[Some time passes...]

"I want bran flakes."

1.30pm: Mummy and Toddler get up. Toddler promises to go back to her own bed after her midnight snack. Mummy makes breakfast: half a glass of orange juice and a small bowl of bran flakes. Mummy reads the internet whilst Toddler slurps breakfast. Mummy carries Toddler back to her bed.

Toddler refuses to get into her own bed.

Mummy wants to sleep.

Three in the bed again.

Snoring. Wriggling. "Go to sleep!" ing.

Pillow-fluffing. Over-rolling. Duvet adjusting.

No-one sleeps.

Early hours: Toddler sings "The wheels on the bus". Mummy snaps. Toddler gets taken back to her own bed. Toddler cries. Mummy goes back to her own bed. Toddler gets up and wanders about the upstairs of the house, closing and opening doors and crying.

Daddy gets up. Uh-oh!

Daddy puts toddler in her bed. Daddy reads a story. Daddy sits on the floor and waits and waits and waits. The dawn chorus starts. "What's that noise, Daddy?" "Go to sleep."

Daddy suppresses many sneezes. In the next room, Mummy snores.

4am: Daddy takes a chance and returns to bed.

"Uh? Where's he gone?!" Daddy's heart sinks...

but then there is silence!


9am: Toddler wakes up. Toddler, unaffected by the antics of the night, bounces into Mummy and Daddy's bedroom: "Wake up!"

Mummy and Daddy still want to sleep but it's way past breakfast time so Mummy makes a nice pot of tea.


(Note: all timings are approximate. There is no clock in our bedroom - it's too depressing to lie there, counting the minutes that your child keeps you awake!)

Saturday, 18 May 2013

On the trot...

For a birthday treat, I arranged for my daughter to visit a friend's pony yard to ride a pony.

After collecting the pony from the field where he was grazing with other horses, my friend and her girls showed us how to brush him and clean his hooves. Then we saddled him up, put on his bridle and took him out to the yard.


I wasn't sure if my daughter was going to be brave enough to ride the pony but she was very keen. I had pre-warned her that she must do exactly as my friend told her (with the threat of being taken home straight away for non-compliance!) and she was perfectly obedient. She sat on the pony and did a few laps of the yard and then watched as her friends had a ride. She then enjoyed leading the pony around whilst one of the other girls rode.

I'm not sure if she is going to be a pony enthusiast (I rather hope not, given the costs and the fact that I'm highly allergic to horses!) but she certainly enjoyed her morning out.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Free range holiday



For our Summer holiday, we returned to Bluestone in Pembrokeshire - almost exactly one year after our first visit. We were hoping to be lucky with the weather and, as it turned out, only had one day of non-stop rain. When you holiday in the UK, you don't really expect glorious sunshine for the whole week and, fortunately, at Bluestone there is so much to do indoors that the weather doesn't really matter.

Like last time, we opted for the four night mid-week break but we chose different accommodation - a cottage instead of a lodge. The whole resort is designed with families in mind, so the cottage had stairgates, a high chair and a travel cot. My daughter was delighted to discover that her bedroom had bunkbeds but disappointed to realise that she isn't yet big enough to climb up to the top bunk.

We promised our daughter that we would go swimming every day at the Blue Lagoon, as entry to the pool was included in the holiday price. She loved bobbing around the lazy river, splashing in the shallows, playing on the baby slide and 'surfing' the waves! She displayed tremendous water confidence and even took her armbands off at one point. I'm seriously thinking of sending her for some swimming lessons before she starts school...

The indoor adventure centre, with it's soft-play, bouncy castle, Lego room and climbing towers was a huge hit, as it had been last time. On the rainiest day, we booked our daughter in to the Circus Zone entertainment, where she had her face painted, had a balloon animal made for her, and played hide and seek and read stories with the clown. (Poor bloke, he must have been exhausted after three hours with a room full of pre-schoolers!) The grown-ups had to stay close at hand but with free wifi and a cafe just down the corridor, it was easy to pass the time in an adult fashion.

We wanted to join the pond dipping activity but it was fully booked, so we bought a little fishing net from the shop and set off around the campus on our own adventure. We caught some slimy river beasties (and put them back) and got muddy squelching through lots of puddles. Our daughter wanted to catch an octopus but we couldn't find one...

On a couple of evenings, we took our daughter the the Kids Zone - an hour of games, singing and dancing led by one of the children's entertainers. The first night, they played pass-the-parcel and each layer of wrapping paper had a chocolate coin inside, which kept the kids interested! We were pleased that our daughter, although shy at first, managed to overcome her nerves and join in with the other children. She kept checking that we were close by but her confidence certainly grew as the week progressed. 

There are lots of different places to eat on the campus (and any additional costs can easily be charged back to your holiday account) so we did a mixture of self-catering and eating out. Our breakfasts were included in the holiday price, so we filled up each morning. Our daughter loved the toast conveyor belt ("Mummy, they have a magic toast machine!") and the fruit selection; my husband and I went "full-Welsh" every day - well, we were on holiday! Lunches were taken in the Adventure Centre, since that was where we had to collect the toddler packed lunch included in our holiday deal. On our first night, we went to the all-you-can-eat buffet and, on our last night, we used the take-away/delivery service and had pizza in our cottage. 

We let normal bedtime go out of the window for the duration of our holiday and, since our daughter was tired out from all the activities, she slept well.  

I was granted a morning off from being mummy, so I took advantage of the opportunity to spend some birthday money on a pedicure at the Well Spa. My daughter very kindly complimented me on the results: "Mummy, you have painty toes!" but my husband was less sure of the nail polish colour (carefully chosen to match my open-toed sandals!).


We all agreed that we would come back to Bluestone again. There is so much to do and, as our daughter gets older, a greater range of activities will become available to her - she's too small for the Steep Ravine aerial walkway and some of the group activities designed for school-age children.

The only thing that was a little peculiar about the holiday was that the last time we were there, I was newly pregnant. We had talked about coming back with a toddler and an infant, so being surrounded by families with children of similar age-gap between our daughter and son was poignant. 

Friday, 10 May 2013

Day out review: Bowood House and Gardens



Today, my daughter and I went to Bowood House and Gardens with a friend. She had corporate membership tickets and we planned to spend a couple of hours looking around. As it turned out, I would have been more than happy to pay the entry fee as we didn't do half of the stuff there was on offer! We stayed for five hours and didn't manage to see the full extent of the gardens, walk around the lake or visit the indoor soft-play.

We started out in the cafe and, once refreshed, began our tour at Tractor Ted's Little Farm. My daughter spent about an hour looking at the chicks, hens, pigs, calves, rabbits, guinea pigs, sheep and lambs. We were able to pet a rabbit, although he tried to make an escape! She also rode around on some little pedal-powered tractors and re-arranged the plastic farm animals in the farmyard.

It looked as though it might start to rain, so our next port of call was Bowood House. My daughter couldn't believe her ears when she heard that one room used to be an orangery - "What? Trees growing inside the house?!" She wasn't particularly interested in the laboratory where Joseph Priestley first discovered oxygen but she liked the library, especially the lionskin rug. ("Mummy, what's that lion doing?") She stood on the Juliet balcony to have her photo taken but didn't spend long looking at either of the exhibitions on the upper floors.

We ended our tour of the house in the gift shop (isn't that always the way?) and bought a souvenir although we were very disappointed to discover that they didn't have any fridge magnets! Then, we had a lunch in the restaurant, which was a bit grander than I was expecting. My daughter was well-behaved and ate all her pasta salad. We discussed the merits of cress, which she is growing at nursery, but she chose not to eat any from her salad garnish.

By this point, it was time for our friend to leave so we said goodbye and then went to the adventure playground to burn off some pent-up energy. Thankfully, I had left my stilettoes at home! We bounced on the sunken trampoline, see-sawed, swung in the rowing-boat swings, and clambered all over the pirate ship. We decided that most of the slides were too high for us, especially as there were safety nets around the ladders! To round-off our visit, we climbed a few trees and re-visited the farm animals.


A very tired little girl slept most of the way home in the car. When we got home, we made a collage for Daddy to show him all the things we had done and we all agreed that we should definitely make a point of returning to Bowood for a family day out.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Something inside so strong

Apparently, yesterday was International Bereaved Mothers Day. I didn't know. It completely passed me by until I read someone else's post about it this morning. Do I wish we'd 'celebrated' it or acknowledged it in some way? Not really. I think about Monty every day and I hold his memory close. I don't need a special day for that. He is part of our family. He will always be missing and he will always be missed.

I do silently 'celebrate' the lessons I have learned through sharing my life with Monty, even though I never got to know him as a person. I have found inner strength and been reminded of how lucky I am to have supportive family and friends. I have re-assessed my priorities and attitude to life. We live in the moment more than we used to and value our family time, which is so precious.

People tell me that I am amazing. They marvel at how I am dealing with the loss of my son: how I manage to get up and dressed each morning; how I can talk freely about him and my experience; how I answer my daughter's questions and explain what happened over and over again. But I'm not amazing - I'm just dealing with bereavement the best I can.

I have to carry on with life. I have a wonderful husband and a beautiful daughter and they need me. More than that, they need me to be me. I'll never be the same person I was before but I can be almost the same, with a few healed scars.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Best bank holiday ever?

Today, the weather was fantastic (unusual for a bank holiday weekend!) so we slapped on sun cream and hats and headed out for the Winterbourne Down May Day Monday carnival. It was the first time we had taken our daughter and she was very excited at the prospect of seeing "Captain Carnival". We told her that he would be the man at the front of the parade. We managed to find a good vantage point just up the road from the Cross Hands pub and waited until we heard the music. The parade wasn't very long but there were bagpipers and drummers, followed by this year's May Day carnival queen and people in fancy dress. We followed the parade up the hill, then stopped for an ice lolly. The road was closed and, down the pavement at each side, were the usual carnival stalls: raffles, tombola, hook-a-duck; handmade knitted items, secondhand books and baked goods. We hooked a duck for 50p and won a prize. Then we went to watch Captain Carnival award the parade prizes (for best fancy dress according to age group).

After we had exhausted the carnival's spoils, we walked back down the hill and joined the Frome Valley Walkway to make our way home along the side of the river. It was lovely and sunny but the trees provided some dappled shade. We explored Huckford Quarry halfway along our route and got splashed by a dog who had been swimming in the river and leapt up onto the riverbank to shake himself dry! Although we had to alternate walking with shoulder rides, we were pleased with how far our daughter managed to walk, considering the bumpy terrain and the distance (it was further than we had thought).


In the afternoon, it was decided that mummy should get wet. I was instructed to remove my clothes (but I chose to put on an old T shirt) whilst my daughter filled a washing-up-bowl with water from the water butt in the garden. She had been doing water-play with the bowl, plastic cups and a watering can the day before but, today, she chose to throw water at me until I was drenched! Daddy joined in too and then we reversed roles and I got my own back! Our neighbours said they enjoyed listening to the shrieks and laughter and were unsure who had had the most fun!

After a quick shower (all three of us together) we put dry clothes on and wandered off to The Globe Inn to see if there was any guest beer left from the beer festival which had been held over the weekend. Our daughter enjoyed playing on the climbing frame and we had a few drinks. She insisted that we stay for dinner and, since it was steak night, we did.


A short stroll back home in the evening sun, including a quick detour to the swings and slides, topped off with a bowl of ice cream brought us to bedtime! Well, for one of us, at least. She's in the bath now and Daddy and I are wondering how to pass the rest of the evening. Perhaps a small glass of wine in the garden before it gets too cold?

What a shame we have to go back to work tomorrow...

Friday, 3 May 2013

Feel the fear and do it anyway?

I have longed to provide my daughter with a sibling since before she was born. I was delighted to find out I was pregnant for the second time at Easter last year but, six months ago, our lives were turned upside down when our son was stillborn. Now, we are faced with the challenge of trying again. Lots of bereaved parents go on to have more children but I am scared of losing another baby.

I never felt that my second pregnancy would be my last. I could picture myself with three little people toddling along beside me! So, in some ways, trying again would give us the third child I was hoping for anyway.

But...

I worry that everything will go wrong again. I worry that there will be difficult decisions to make. I worry that I won't have the strength to battle the anxiety. I worry that I won't be able to bond with my baby. I worry that I won't be able to talk about how I feel. I worry that other people won't understand. I worry about depression. I worry that all the worry will make me a poor mummy. I worry that there won't be a 'right time' to start trying and I worry about leaving it too late.

I didn't worry about anything during my pregnancies. I was considered 'low risk' and I never expected things to go wrong. I was so sure of myself as a mum-to-be, custodian of the unborn child. I was careful about my diet and how I exercised, and I was prepared for my babies' arrivals. I never thought I would come away from the hospital with empty arms, sore eyes and a broken heart...

Amateur photographer

My (nearly three-years-old) daughter has recently got into photography. She keeps stealing my point-and-shoot digital camera and disappearing off around the house to take pictures. Mostly, she takes photos of the carpet. "Say cheese!" she says! She even had her Daddy posing for her the other day and he was following her instructions to "Stand like this" and "Look that way"!

Here is some of her best work:

"Bedroom"

"Daddy"

"Daddy's toe"

"Shoes"

"Downstairs"

"Kitty socks"

"Mummy"

"Feet"

"More feet"

"Pouffe"

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Birthday quiz

Now that my daughter is approaching the ripe old age of three and is more than capable of expressing her views, I thought it would be fun to prepare a birthday quiz. A set of a ten questions to ask her each year on her birthday to see how her interests and tastes change as she gets older. I'm hoping that this list of questions will stand the test of time and I'm looking forward to seeing how her answers change and her tastes develop.

1) Who is your best friend?

2) What is your favourite book?

3) What is your favourite game/toy?

4) Where is your favourite place to go?

5) What do you like to eat?

6) What do you do with your pocket money?

7) Who do you like to spend time with?

8) What would be your perfect day?

9) What did you get for your birthday?

10) What do you want to be when you grow up?

It might be quite fun for me and my husband to guess her answers in advance and see how correct we are when our daughter answers for herself!