Three and a half

Family life is constantly changing. It seems like no time since I was feeling cooped up and frustrated with a toddler who needed lots of entertaining.

IMG_0480But now my boy is three and a half and has the privilege of five afternoons a week in school nursery and two mornings in playgroup. We only really share Monday and Thursday mornings and they are wonderful. Often we just potter about together on the allotment, weeding, watering, picking and planting. We cycle there and back, usually stopping at the nearby play area for a bit of climbing, swinging and pretending to be pirates and sharks.

IMG_0822Occasionally we’ve been to visit the birds at Saltholme or the seals just a bit further up the road. Sometimes we do errands, popping to the shops, the bank, the library or the post office. It’s low stress, low pressure and usually just me and him.

I’ve never had so much freedom to enjoy the company of someone who is three and a half. When Son Number one was three and a half he was very ill and we were dealing with leukaemia. What’s more, he had a baby sister to divide my attention. When she was three and a half, Babykins came along and my attention was divided again. I feel quite sad that I can barely remember what my older two children were like at this age.

When they were little I would have looked for organised activities or arranged to meet up with friends but now I’m happy just to be alone together. I’ve come to the conclusion that trying to enjoy the company of other adults when small children are around is actually quite hard work. I know that at a different stage in my life I would have needed the kind of support that only other parents can offer. I would have needed a place to go to get out of the house. But that stage has passed. For this short period of time, I’m really happy and contented to share it with Babykins.


Now you are two (and a third)

Babykins is not a baby anymore.

IMG_7037My ‘baby’ can almost keep up with his brother and sister on his scooter.

IMG_7038He knows how to operate the hose in Grandma’s greenhouse. More importantly, he can water the plants without watering himself.

He can make himself understood and ask questions. His speech may not be terribly clear but we can all understand it when he says “I will” with such determination.

More importantly, since Easter, his sleep habits have changed. I hardly dare to say it but he is sleeping all night, in his own little bed.

Growing from a two year old into a three year old is quite a thing to do. There are so many changes along the way. My baby gets stronger and more confident every day.


But he’s always going to be my baby, whatever.

Muddy puddles

These days, Babykins demands to be set free from the pushchair while we wait in the playground for his older brother and sister to finish school. He loves running around and exploring. Show me a toddler that doesn’t.
I like to think that I keep my eye on him at all times so that I know where he is but I also want to let him enjoy his freedom.
Today he learnt a lesson (I hope): when Mummy says “Don’t go back over there, it’s too muddy” you should listen.

Poor Babykins. He slipped off a little piece of play equipment and landed in a huge muddy puddle. I think he was more shocked that hurt. I must admit to laughing a bit, he did look funny. It’s not the first time I’ve been thankful for grown up friends in the playground and the close proximity of my home!

If you want to see more pictures of babykins, search for the hash tag #babykinsadventures at instagram.

Just a Beautiful, Ordinary Day

Today has been a beautiful day, filled with ordinary things. I don’t think there will be many more like this in 2012.

I give you…

Blue sky, light breezes and bed linen drying on the line.

Playing outside in the afternoon sunshine in shirt sleeves.A few more ripe tomatoes, though to be honest, most of them are still green. I think more chutney is in order.

Sunflowers continuing to bloom.

More butterflies. I thought we had seen the last of them a few weeks ago.

Enjoying the afternoon school run. Probably the first time Babykins has done the whole thing under his own steam.

Some days just go well don’t they? Today has been one of those. I know that it’s partly to do with the way I feel today. It’s been an easy does it, go with the flow kind of day. No stress, no pressure. One of those days when it’s not so hard to tempt and cajole a toddler, in fact it can be quite fun when the sun is shining and you’re in the right frame of mind. Just an ordinary day, really, that will no doubt merge into many others. Life is full of ordinary days but I suspect that in years to come, these will be the days I wish I could hold onto and remember.


Sleep, I miss it. Actually, what I miss is uninterrupted sleep. I know babies need to wake in the night. I know that it’s normal toddler behaviour to want to cuddle up to your Mum. I know all the logical stuff about kids and sleep. But really, ENOUGH!

I long for consistent bedtimes and  a soundly sleeping child but I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. Babykins is testing my reserves as a mother. Most of the time I can cope but this week I’m ready to throw in the towel. Time to pass the responsibility to The Husband for a night or two. In the meantime I will keep this image in my head.

There’s nothing in life as perfect as a sleeping child.

We’re Weathering the Weather….

I think I am getting used to this weather now. Slowly, my mindset is beginning to change. I am now resigned to the fact that summer has ‘failed to install’ as the image doing the rounds of Facebook jokes. I no longer expect sunshine so I am no longer disappointed when I wake up to rain. I do worry about my poor in-laws though. Will they ever be able to get any silage or hay made on their farm? How will they feed their cattle over winter without a harvest of summer grass?

The children all have new wet weather gear courtesy of sales, eBay and the hand-me-down box so whatever happens, we can get out and about. At 18 months, Babykins doesn’t have a concept of what summer should be like. He just wants to get out and explore. Last Friday night he dragged me to the front door  and practically demanded that I put his wellies on and take him outside. We trooped up and down the street, jumping in the epic puddles that had appeared. I couldn’t help but laugh at his outfit – shorts, wellies and a wooly hat. It could only be appropriate in a British Summer.

Dark skies are a bit depressing but they somehow allow the colour and beauty of summer flowers to shine. I hope that wherever you are, you can find something to enjoy in this terrible summer we’re having.

Digging Days Part 2 – Alone in the garden

I’ve had a strange bank holiday weekend. It feels as if I have spent quite a lot of it on my own. In all honesty, I haven’t been alone that much, just more than usual. When you spend most of your waking (and sometimes sleeping) moments with a small child it seems awfully quiet when someone else takes over.

The Husband has been dealing with Babykins for the last few nights. It’s bliss to not have to jump out of bed and try and settle him down before he disturbs the rest of the household. I’d love it if he could consistently sleep all through the night, solidly for twelve hours. I just don’t think that it’s part of his make-up.

Anyway, I’ve been getting my shut eye alone, while the Husband has taken to the spare bed next to Babykins’ cot. He has got up with him early in the morning and been busy, busy from the get-go. Yesterday, by the time I’d surfaced, they had disappeared to the allotment. They had collected the green waste and taken it to the local tip before I’d eaten breakfast!

The older two were enjoying their ‘holidays’ at Grandma’s so I woke up to an empty house. I can imagine many parents of small children sighing and wishing for the same experience but let me tell you, it was weird. I had a glimpse into the world of the ’empty nester’ and I did not like it one little bit! It seemed that suddenly, nobody needed me.

When the biggest and smallest boy came back from their errands, we decided that I would go down to the allotment myself and try to get on with some planting. That is the usual division of labour. I leave the hard, back breaking work to the Husband and then faff about deciding on which direction the rows of seeds should go in. Or in this case, Charlotte potatoes.

I felt a nagging sense of guilt as I got started on my own. Surely I should have been looking after the children? I put it to the back of my mind and tried to enjoy the experience of being in the sun, fresh air and peace and quiet. On days like this when my emotions make me feel mixed up, I am grateful for the time I have spent doing yoga. I am really out of practice with the physical side of yoga but I find myself coming back to the mental side of things again and again. I don’t really have the words to express how it works for me, I wish I did. The best I can do is to say that learning about yoga philosophy has given me a sense of being ‘mindful’. Sometimes just acknowledging feelings is enough to allow me to move on. It isn’t always that simple, but often it is.

Getting interested in blog world is another strangely mindful experience. When I started reading other people’s blogs I realised that documenting everyday life somehow makes you value ordinary, daily existence. It’s just like writing a diary, something I’ve always like the idea of but never really got to grips with. Perhaps it is the ability to really capture moments in time with pictures as well as words. There’s something very therapeutic in reflecting on the things in your life that have given you pleasure.

Anyway, don’t feel too sorry for me and my lonely moments (er, it’s ok, I know you don’t!). I enjoyed having a bit of time to play at taking photos of the buds and blooms that are around at the moment. I have been quite pleased with the results from my iPhone camera.

It wasn’t long before I had a visit from Babykins and the Husband. I had a fun, if slightly strained time (I knew he had no spare clothes with him) helping Babykins get to grips with mud and water.

Not long after he had gone, the other two arrived with Grandma. They worked together for a while, taking straw to the strawberry patch but they weren’t really in the mood to cooperate with each other. Grandma decided to take the Middle Miss off to the shops and Son Number One stayed behind with me.

I was trying to finish digging over the patch where the broccoli had been, in order to plant the rest of the seed potatoes. Fortunately, this was a job Son Number One was happy to help with. We did some digging, We did some raking, then I made the holes and he planted the spuds. When we had no more potatoes left, we decided to fill in the rest of the bed with a few rows of peas. I was very glad I had a helper at this point because I wanted to construct some sort of support for them to climb up. It would have been a tricky job on my own. It’s been a long time coming, having a boy who was more of a help than a hindrance in the garden but it’s happened this weekend.



Half Term Holidays: Sheep, Birds, Castles and Gardens.

Half term seems to have been very full this year. We seem to have crammed plenty into nine days off (school was closed yesterday for teacher training).

First of all we had a visit to the in-laws in Cumbria. Son Number One always looks forward to this because he adores going to visit his cousins on their farm. They had a lot of fun together, going right up onto the fells to feed the sheep.

I think he would be quite happy if we suggested that his Aunt and Uncle adopt him. Not only do they let him do farming activities, they nearly always feed him his favourite meal: sausage and mash.

While we were away, the Husband and I had our first Night Out Alone since……well, neither of us could clearly remember the last time. We had a lovely steak dinner and were still home by about 9.30. We must need more practise.

On Thursday, the Husband went back to work (booo) and I had a lovely day out with the oldest two (hooray) while my Mum looked after Babykins. We met up with one of my old antenatal class pals and her two boys at Salthome, our local RSPB reserve. They were running a ‘dissect an owl pellet’ activity for the children. I’m not sure who enjoyed it the most, me or them. I was amazed that in one pellet, there were at least three small rodent skulls. It was possible to identify quite a few different bones, such as the vertebrae, ribs and thigh bones. Who knew that owl ‘sick’ could be so interesting. I’d love to go to the next session they are running, which is aimed at adults. You can find the information about it here.

I must confess this is an old photo of a different activity. I just wanted to put it in to show the lovely murals in the classroom. I wish I had taken some more photos because they really capture the environment. There are even paintings on the ceiling. One depicting what it would be like to look up through a pond and see tadpoles and other water creatures swimming by and one showing the sky with birds in flight, as if someone has removed the roof.

The children took full advantage of the play area (I might just have joined in too). There were lots of good places for a game of hide and seek.

Son Number One is quite keen on bird spotting and managed to identify the coots and moorhens correctly when the hide guide checked his knowledge. I was very proud.

It was a real treat to just enjoy just the two of them. I must try to do it more often.

As the week went on, I kept thinking that we should take advantage of our extra day of holiday and go away for a long weekend. My Mum was thinking the same thing too. We decided to phone up Flowery Dell lodges, just outside Richmond.

Luckily for us the ‘Juniper‘ was available. It was the perfect space for us, being on one level (no stairs for Babykins to climb) and with three bedrooms, a single, a twin and a double.

The weather on Saturday was stunning: clear, sunny and crisp. We explored the site with my brother and his wife, who had come to visit. First, the little play area, where there was a lot of fun to be had climbing….

trying to climb (but getting stuck)….

and balancing…

When they fell off, their Uncle ordered them back to the start and off they ran, giggling.

Babykins seemed amazed by the chance to explore such a wide open space. He is often tethered to a push chair while we are out but not this time. He practically did a double take as he trotted past this little water feature. Thankfully it was well designed and he couldn’t actually get wet.

The light was so beautiful. It lit up the bright white bark of these birch trees.

and shone through dried up leaves of the beech saplings.

It made super-dooper tall shadows.

Suddenly, there was a change in the weather. Cloud came in and unbelievably, snow started to fall. There was quite a blizzard and my brother and his wife decided to make a run for it, just in case.

It only lasted about 15 minutes and then there was full sunshine again. Very unusual.

The night was very cold and frosty but we were cosy in our little lodge.

Of course, the great thing about frosty nights is the clear, blue-sky days that often follow them. Sunday was a stunner so we went off to explore Richmond. First of all the castle, with it’s virtually intact keep.

We climbed to the very top. I can’t think why I didn’t take a photo of the view. We looked out for dragons, knights and damsels in distress, but there were none to be seen.

After all that climbing we needed refreshments.

How about that for afternoon tea? I’m very fussy about tea shop teas. Any that have proper, non-drip teapots and milk in a little jug score highly with me. Those scones were whoppers. I couldn’t eat any dinner until after 8pm.

Our last day of the holiday was spent at Thorpe Perrow Arboretum. I’ve often wondered about visiting this place but somehow never got around to it. Turns out that Monday was a great day to go. We met some friends there and apart from our party, there was only one other little, young family there. We had the whole of the grounds virtually to ourselves.

It was almost worth the entrance fee for the pleasure the children had getting close to the robins. Son Number One tried very patiently to tempt one to eat from his hand. I think if his sister hadn’t been jumping around quite so much he might have managed it.

Even she got close though.

And how about this? I did use the zoom function, of course.

I really enjoyed walking through the grounds. There were plenty of snowdrops in bloom and the mixture of trees meant that it was still interesting, despite the season.

Babykins got to stretch his legs again. Thank goodness for reins. He would have been swimming with the ducks otherwise.

At this time of year, you have to enjoy the detail of plants.

The main attractions as far as the children were concerned were the animals and birds of prey. In fact, it couldn’t have suited Son Number One more. It was a near as he is going to get to ‘Deadly 60‘, one of his favourite TV programmes. Because there were so few people there, we all got to stroke a corn snake and hold a buzzard and a barn owl.

The meerkats were very cute too.

We walked over the board walk through the bog garden a few times. Each time I looked as carefully as I could at this stunning toadstool. I couldn’t work out if it was real or not. I took a few photos, zooming in as closely as I could. See what you think….

Now look more closely….

I should have realised when I saw the fairies in their tree stump.

We had a great time but I’d love to go back there, just me and the Husband and explore the grounds. Maybe in another 15 years or so….

Babykins’ first Snow

I love snow. I still get excited by it. I still anticipate it, hardly daring to hope that it will arrive.

I watched the weather forecast on Friday night and saw the enormous band of snow that was due to cross the country the next afternoon.

Almost bang on time, flakes started to fall at two o’clock, as I took my boys out to visit our friends. I don’t think Babykins was very impressed by the cold wind blowing into his face. His cruel mother wanted him to experience snow so didn’t put the rain cover on the pushchair.

By the time I went back out again at three o’clock to collect the Middle Miss from her dancing lesson, there was a covering of snow. She skipped along with me all the way back to our friends house. She didn’t care about the gusty wind, she just kept saying “I can’t believe this snow is here”. Thank goodness I had had the foresight to send her off to class with her warm clothes and snow boots. By now the snow was falling so fast that it really would have been cruel to expose poor little Babykins to it.

As forecast, the snow fell almost continuously until about nine p.m. I took these photos around midnight, just before I went to bed after a rare night out with my girl friends.

Can you see the little foot prints to the right of the photo? I’ve got a suspicion there’s a resident mouse in the garden, swiping the seed and dried fruit from the bird food dishes (where the faint trace of circles are).

Taking pictures of snow at night time is a technical challenge that I have not yet conquered.

Of course this morning, the fun really started. Son Number One and the Middle Miss had a great time pulling each other and the sledge up and down the street. They shovelled the snow off the drive into a huge pile  castle.

Babykins seemed to really enjoy his first snowy experience. I wish I could post the video of him being pulled along in the sledge. He showed his babyish signs of appreciation: a big smile and kicking legs. Fortunately, because he is baby three, we had welly boots at the ready and he made his debut walk through the snow.

He coped extremely well but by ten-thirty he was ready for a nap. So was I if the truth be told but you don’t get the chance to go sledging every day. Moreover, you don’t get the chance to do it with some of your oldest, out-of-town friends and their children.

Who had the most fun do you think?

Edited to add: Babykins does own mittens, he just keeps pulling them off. Can anyone tell me if my use of the apostrophe is correct in the title?

The Colours of My Day

As much as I loved the colours I used in my crochet last week, they were too busy for my bedroom. I have since realised that they are my ‘downstairs’ colours. What I really wanted was something to go with my bedroom curtains. Something in these more restful tones of green and pale blue.

So over the weekend, I got busy with this different palette of colours. I even managed to do a little bit of crocheting at the local craft group this morning while Babykins dozed in his pram.

So far, I’m quite pleased with the results.

After the craft club, Babykins and I went off to Grandma’s house for a bit of lunch. Grandma being Grandma, Babykins got a lot of encouragement in his climbing endeavours…..

I’m sure I can do this

Yes, just stretch a bit more

Getting there

Enjoying the new view

Ooooh, look Mum, I DID do it!

Ah, Grandmas. Always teaching such useful skills. Oh well, we had one happy baby.

After all that climbing, we went out for a little bit of a garden inspection. Grandma has been busy spring cleaning her greenhouse ready for the new season. Babykins thought it was marvellous to be able to toddle about all over the (wet) grass. Summer is going to be so much fun for him and a time of constant worry for me.

I couldn’t resist taking a few snaps of the snowdrops. It’s a shame they are only camera phone pictures as I’d have loved to have the macro lens from the good ol’ Canon Ixus.

and it’s not even February yet….

Looking back at these photos it seems there’s a bit of a colour theme going on today. What do you think?