Saturday, 31 August 2013

Day out review: Westonbirt Arboretum

We have been to Westonbirt Arboretum a couple of times but, on our most recent visit, we decided to buy annual membership. It's not so much that we're really in to trees, more that it is a good walk and a very interactive family day out. Take wellies and wet wipes and prepare to get dirty - you can become one with nature at Westonbirt!

We built a wooden house...

climbed trees...

and collected woodland debris to make a tree collage when we got home.

We also climbed wooden structures, saw a wooden Gromit carved from a tree trunk, and learned that all trees have names. We pretended to be trolls and goats on the troll bridge and had a picnic on the grass. The highlight was seeing our final Gromit - we have now completed the Gromit Unleashed trail and spotted all 80 Gromit statues!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Take one!

Yesterday, I took my daughter to the cinema for the first time. A friend had suggested meeting up for lunch and a film with our two girls (aged four and three) and, despite being nervous, I agreed. I needn't have worried - both girls sat through a two course lunch and Monsters University with no trouble!

My Dad used to take us to the cinema, when we were children, as an occasional treat. I remember him taking me to see The Jungle Book and Return To Oz at the little cinema in Falmouth, where I grew up. When that cinema closed, Dad took me to Camborne watch The Living Daylights - we comprised two-thirds of the audience for the matinee screening! When my sister was old enough to come too, our poor Dad sat through The Care Bears Movie and My Little Pony: The Movie. Thank goodness kids' films have got better since then!

My daughter was very excited to do something as grown-up as going to the cinema. I bought her some popcorn and a drink and she sat very nicely in her seat munching away through the trailers and preview short film. She sat in her own seat for about half of the film and on my knee or my friend's knee for the rest. Despite being 'afraid' of monsters, she enjoyed the film and told me afterwards that her favourite bit was the scaring bit! Her favourite monster was 'the one with no eyes' (I'm not sure which one that was...) but she didn't like 'the spotty one' because he was too scary.

All in all, the cinema trip was a success and I awarded my daughter a petal for her 'wow flower' (our motivational alternative to a sticker chart). She told Daddy all about it when she got home and has asked to go again. We've told her that a trip to the cinema is just the sort of treat she might choose when her wow flower is complete with petals. I hope she keeps that in mind - we saw a trailer for Turbo and I really want to take her to see it!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The missing link

Sometimes, I read Jennie's blog at and this post really struck a chord with me.

To the outside world, we are a 'normal' family of three: Mummy, Daddy, Daughter. However, there is someone missing. Someone who was born but never lived. Someone we can never replace. We know that he should be with us but there are times when even I 'forget' that three should be four.

Within the family, we talk about Monty quite openly. With strangers, it doesn't seem right. Yet, there are many times when I want to remind the world that he did exist, inside me, for 34 weeks. He was born, he was named, he was photographed. He is my daughter's younger brother and she is a big sister, not an only child.

Except, that's not what you see. You don't see the hole in our lives.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Day out review: Peppa Pig World

I always knew that our trip to PPW would go one of two ways: either our daughter would LOVE it as much as she loves watching PP on DVD and fully immerse herself in the experience; or we would have the worst family day out EVER and wish we'd saved ourselves £50 and stayed at home. As we travelled down the M4 and A346 towards Paulton Park, I kept my fingers crossed for the former but, as luck would have it, we got the latter.

Everyone I know who has taken their children (of approximately my daughter's age) to PPW has said it is fantastic and had a wonderful time. However, three factors got in the way of us having a great time:
  1. Daughter fell asleep in the car 20 minutes before we got there and woke up in a bad mood
  2. It took us longer than anticipated to drive there
  3. It rained
On paper, the theme park looks great. There are seven PP-themed rides to go on, you can visit Peppa's house, there is a large indoor soft-play, an outdoor water-park for splashing around in, an outdoor playground, and plenty of PP merchandise to purchase. 

We started with a ride on Grandad Pig's train. Our daughter got a bit frustrated waiting in the queue (although, we didn't have to wait that long) but enjoyed the ride once she was on it. Twice around the track wasn't enough for her but we persuaded her to do something else and then come back for another ride later.

We got ice cream (despite the rain) and queued up for Miss Rabbit's Helicopter Ride. We had to wait over half an hour for this one and our daughter spent the whole of that time whinging about how she only wanted to ride on a red helicopter. So much so that, when we eventually got to the front of the queue, we had to let another family go in front of us so that we could ride in a red helicopter! The ride was pretty good and our daughter enjoyed it. Again, she didn't want to get off but wanted another go.

Then, she insisted on going back on Grandad Pig's train, so we queued up for that again.

Next, we went on Daddy Pig's car ride. (More waiting in line, listening to our daughter going on about what colour vehicle we might get. I started to lose my cool...) She enjoyed 'steering' the car around the track and pointing out all the models of PP and her friends as we went round.

Finally, Daddy and Daughter queued up for George's Dinosaur ride, which looked to me like the best ride in the park. Our daughter's face lit up as they rode around the track and, once more, she didn't want to get off at the end!

Having been in the park for 3 hours by this point, I needed some caffeine, so we got ourselves some tea/coffee at Daddy Pig's Big Tummy Cafe. Disappointingly, there was only outside seating (not great in the rain) and our daughter needed a wee, which meant that my tea was not very hot by the time I got to drink it. 

Next door to the cafe was the soft-play, so we went in there for half an hour. To be honest, our daughter would have been happy if we'd only visited the soft-play and not bothered with any of the rides! It was awesome as soft-play areas go and all the kids in there were having a great time. She didn't want to leave but it was starting to get late.

We concluded our visit with a look around the gift shop and bought the obligatory fridge magnet for our collection as well as Peppa's tell-the-time magnetic clock sticker thing (now stuck on our freezer door). As the rain had dried up and it was 5pm, we had a very quick play in the outdoor playground and then headed back to the car.

We were exhausted by the end of our visit. PPW really didn't get us on a good day, which was a shame, but we learnt a few valuable lessons:
  1. Our daughter hates queueing
  2. Peppa Pig looks weird in 3D!
  3. We should wait at least two years before attempting another theme park day out
  4. In two years' time, we should allow more time at the theme park to be able to see/do everything (we missed loads of stuff, including all the attractions in Paulton's Park itself)

Friday, 16 August 2013

Book reviews: Dr Seuss

We are reading and re-reading three great Dr Seuss books at the moment:

I am delighted to have introduced my daughter to one of my childhood favourites: "Hooper Humperdink...? NOT HIM!" I am especially pleased because we are actually reading the very copy I owned as a child (although at some point, my sister wrote her name inside it)! The cover and pages have become separated but all pages are there - not bad for a 30-year-old tome.

The opening lines are: 'I'm going to have a party but I don't think that I'll ask Hooper Humperdink.' The narrator goes on to name all his/her friends (from A-Z) until everyone has been invited to the party. Everyone, that is, except Hooper. 'That Humperdink! I don't know why, but somehow I don't like that guy.'

What I really liked about the book when I was small is that it is full of exotic names that I had never heard before. It's also nicely illustrated, with Hooper and his sausage dog in the bottom corner of every page watching all the other children heading towards the party. I love the rhyming and the tension - will Hooper get to the party or not?

Well, it does have a happy ending - 'A party big and good as this is too good for anyone to miss! And so, you know, I sort of think... I WILL ask Hooper Humperdink!'

We have also been reading the seasonal favourite: "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" Having had a bad start (my daughter got scared by the Grinch film at Christmas) she has adopted this story as her new favourite and wants us to read it at every bedtime.

Although quite a long bedtime story, the rhyming pattern is easy to read and the story flows nicely. We like the way some of the rhymes are forced (such as 'chimbley' to rhyme with 'nimbly' and 'mouses' to rhyme with 'houses') and we like the naughtiness of the Grinch in his bid to steal Christmas.

Of course, it has a happy ending and the Whos' Christmas is not spoiled and we all learn an important moral lesson about the true meaning of Christmas. (Yeah, right! Come December, I bet my daughter will ask for presents!)

Finally, we have to finish off with "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish".

It's not really a story, more a collection of nonsense rhymes - some of which are really quite tricky to read out loud! My daughter has memorised most of it and thinks it's funny when I trip over the words. (My nemesis is the one about the Nook, with the punchline 'what good to a Nook is a hook cook book?') We like the pictures and the silly made-up creatures. I think my daughter would like to have a Zans for cans...

I think that the rhyming and meter of these books makes them perfect for sharing with young children. My daughter can easily remember the stories/poems and has even started to 'read' them to herself (by turning the pages, pointing to pictures and words, and reciting the rhymes from memory). We love reading them with her and I can see them playing a prominent role in our reading list for years to come.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Ursa major

Six bears were knitted to raise funds for Bristol SANDS:

Six bears were sold but people wanted more!

Notes and coins were thrust into my hands.
Requests were made for particular colours.

I knitted two dozen bears (some of them are pictured below) and raised over £100 to say 'thank you' to those who have helped me.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

In sickness and in health

Back in the mists of time, sometime BC (before children), I was hardly ever ill. I might, perhaps, have caught one cold per year and shaken it off within a couple of days.

Now, it seems there is always one infection or another doing the rounds. Approximately once a month, new germs enter the house and move between us, from host to host, until we are all unwell. For weeks. We live in a vicious cycle of incubation, symptoms, grumpiness, recovery, waiting for the next ailment to strike...

I have concluded that toddlers are petri-dishes! They do all the things you shouldn't if you're trying to stay well: they don't wash their hands properly; they share cutlery and crockery; they suck their thumbs; they make physical contact with each other; and they don't put their hands over their mouths when they cough or sneeze. Not that I'm suggesting that all the bacteria and viruses coming our way hail from my daughter's nursery but many of them do. My heart sinks when I see a sign on the door which reads "we have confirmed cases of..." Usually, it is sickness and diarrhoea or chicken pox; recently, it was the more exotic-sounding impetigo.

In the past week, we have hosted three pathogens. The first was a tummy bug which, thankfully, my husband kept to himself. The cold virus and bacterial conjunctivitis have been more liberally shared, however. We may even have passed 'sticky-eye' to Grandad. As I type, I am blinking through one runny eye and my throat feels raw, so I can't even enjoy a nice cup of tea!

Eventually, I guess, this phase will pass and I will once again be able to go longer than a lunar cycle without feeling under the weather. In the meantime, at least I've got my boiled water and cottonwool..

Friday, 9 August 2013

What did you do today?

Whenever we do something different or exciting, or visit somewhere new without Daddy, I get my daughter to make a story-board so that, when he gets home from work, she can tell him all about our adventures.

I let her lead on the creation of the board. I keep pictures cut out from magazines in an old biscuit tin and we use these to tell the story. We also add sparkles, stickers and craft bits as she sees fit.

For example, here is the one that we made after our visit to Windmill Hill City Farm:

It's supposed to be a map of the farm. The 'Tiger-Gromit' statue is in the middle, surrounded by the animals and plants that we saw. The trees had knitted flowers strung in their branches (represented by the sparkles on a strand of wool) and we stopped for a drink in the cafe.

I think it helps to build her memory and it's a fun way to reinforce learning. It's also nice to hear her describe, in her own words, what we have done and to see what she thinks was important about her day.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Outside looking in...

Since my son was stillborn, many people have told me about their own baby losses. I am surprised at the number of people I am acquainted with who have suffered the miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or cot death of their babies. They have chosen to share their experiences with me because I, too, have lost a baby.

I look at other mothers in a different way now: I wonder what sadnesses they are hiding.

When I see other people's photographs of their toddlers meeting a brother or sister for the first time, I feel both happy and regretful.

When friends announce pregnancy news after the first scan, I hold my breath and hope that their baby will make it.

Overwhelmed and amazed by the strength of love I feel for my daughter, I am floored by the sense of loss I feel for the son I never got to know.

I never knew that motherhood could feel joyful and so intensely painful at the same time...

Saturday, 3 August 2013

How many children do you have?

By its virtue, this question is only ever asked by people who don't know me. Usually, it is asked innocently, perhaps by another parent at the park or by someone I'm meeting at work for the first time, but I have to think carefully about how to answer and it always makes me feel uncomfortable.

The easiest response is "I have a daughter." This is completely true and doesn't tend to lead to further questions except, perhaps, about how old she is.

Sometimes, though, the question is slightly different, which means that my stock answer doesn't quite fit. For example, when I was with my daughter at the hairdresser's, the new stylist asked me "Do you have just the one?" and "Would you like to have any more?" I didn't tell her about Monty and just said "Yeah, it would be nice..."

A friend of mine tells people she has three children because that is how many grew up - she doesn't mention the baby who died shortly after birth. I understand her approach. The number of babies I've had differs from the number of children I have, too. The answer isn't wrong, it just isn't wholly right.

In reality, the answer doesn't matter. People who ask are only making conversation. They don't want to know about our tragedy and it would feel awkward to tell strangers about something so personal. It's just that an uneasy feeling is left behind - a sense that I'm doing my son an injustice by not talking about him as freely as I talk about his big sister.