Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Farewell to Summer: our beachy weekend in Wells

Making the most of the later start of school for the Reception intake, we went away for a long weekend on the first weekend of September, to Wells-next-the-Sea in North Norfolk.

This is a part of the country we'd never visited before; we've always automatically headed to the south west, to Devon or Cornwall, so it was quite exciting to try somewhere new.  We stayed in a caravan park, right next to Wells beach.  After a really good journey, broken up with a pub lunch and a run around the adjoining soft play area, we were delighted that our caravan was really luxurious and spacious.  M insisted on opening every door and exploring our new home first, and was so excited to be there. It felt really cosy, so we didn't mind that it was raining and blustery outside.

On our first full day, we rode the little train that runs along the estuary into Wells, where the locals had put on a pirate festival.  The atmosphere was fantastic; there were loads of people in costume, greeting each other with 'AAAAaaaarrrrrrr!' when they walked past. We had a lovely pub lunch in the company of a room full of raucous pirates and then a wander through the high street with all its quirky little shops before heading to the stalls and bouncy castle laid on for the pirate festival.  F finally fell asleep in the pushchair, so I had a lovely bracing walk along the estuary back to the caravan, whilst Two Boy Daddy returned on the train with M.  It had been a lovely day, but we were really hoping that the wind would die down and that we'd see some sunshine on the Sunday, because we had hired a gorgeous beach hut for the weekend and were desperate to try it out.

Going for a stroll along the estuary

On the little train.  (Yes, I am wearing a very similar coat to my boys!)

How cool is this little dude?!

Well, Sunday didn't disappoint! We were so lucky to have the perfect blue sky and lots of lovely sunshine all day long.  We spent the whole day at the beach, paddling in the chilly sea, making sandcastles, playing boules, and just enjoying our cute beach hut.  I've wanted to hire one of these huts for ages, and this one was the perfect choice.  It was equipped with everything you could need for a family day at the beach, with lovely stripey deckchairs and windbreaks, balls, buckets and spades, a kite, binoculors and loads of other fun stuff.  And I enjoyed playing house making cups of tea on the gas stove.  Even F thought it was so comfortable he had a little nap on the padded bench!

Boo! Hiding in the beach hut storage cupboard

Ahoy there!

A quiet cuddle with Daddy

We fetched a picnic from the Beach Hut cafe and munched it behind our windbreak, feeling a little smug that, for once, we were the ones with all the nice equipment (we're usually the family who forgets the towels and brings the wrong clothes!).  I had a whale of a time snapping away with my camera, and got some nice shots that capture our lovely day.

It really felt like a day to mark the end of the summer, and the end of an era, before M started school.  One of those happy days that you know you will remember forever.  That bluer than blue sky and the tang of the sea air really was good for the soul, and I made sure I drank it all in before we headed back home to start school and Autumn.

Us four

All snuggled up in the Mei Tai

Just us

Sunflare behind Beach Hut 66

Our little gang

Friday, 11 September 2015

His first day at school: a new chapter

And so, there it is. I now have a schoolboy, and not a pre-schooler.  It seems to have happened without a hitch, so far.  And like every mother in the same position, I find myself astonished at just how quickly time has gone since he was a little bundle in my arms, since he took his first wobbly steps, and since he started pre-school.

Yesterday was M's first day at school.  Well, it was only two hours in the afternoon, as the school does a staggered start for Reception children.  The morning dragged; it felt like we were just waiting and waiting for 12.45 to come around so we could make the first journey to school.  M was being especially affectionate.  I was on the receiving end of more bear hugs and declarations of love ('I love you sooooo much, Mummy') than I could count.  I don't think in the slightest that this was because he was feeling worried about school, more that he could pick up that I was feeling a little emotional.

When we finally got on his uniform, I tried my hardest to stop the tears, but they just rolled out.  He looked so smart and grown-up, and he was just so proud of himself.  We took some pictures of this special moment.  Daddy came home from work so that he could come with us to school, but before we left, M and I had a special little moment alone. He asked me if he was 'safe'. I'm not sure what he meant by that, but it was probably last minute nerves kicking in.  An extra long hug, a whisper into his ear that I would always be here for him, and a kiss, and we were ready to go.

When we got to school, we had to wait outside the gates for a while, and M was getting impatient to go in.  When it was time to say goodbye and go into the classroom, we had another quick hug and kiss, and then he was off, without a backward glance.  And that's just the way it should be, I think.  He was every inch a confident little school boy, ready to start the next chapter in his life. And judging by his beaming smile when I collected him at 3pm, and his enthusiasm for telling me everything that had happened in the afternoon, this new chapter will be an exciting and happy one. 

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Meeting the teacher: a confident start

With two days to go before the big First Day At School, we had a visit today from M's teacher and her two teaching assistants.  It's the way they do things at his school; they like to get to know the parents and the child and to build a rapport before school starts.  It was good to put a face to a name.  Miss T is about to start her first year at M's primary, but she has taught abroad and in other schools. I guess she is in her late twenties or early thirties.

The three ladies arrived half an hour early (I hadn't put my food shopping away and had not done the last minute sweep of the living room to clear away any clutter, so I was a bit flustered!)  M has been soooo excited about starting school so he was dancing about with delight.  In a very teacherly way, they came in, holding clipboards, and didn't introduce themselves until we were five minutes into the conversation.  M turned away from them so I asked him if he felt shy.  In a loud, confident voice, he declared, 'No Mummy, I'm not shy!'  It really put me in my place!

I felt a bit ashamed of myself.  I should have given him the chance to show that he's a confident little boy.  He went on to chat animatedly to the three visitors, telling them all about what he likes doing, what he'd been doing during the summer and the books he likes to read.  He got out one of his favourite books 'See Under the Sea', a factual book all about the oceans, and proceeded to rattle off the page headings to them.  I could see glances being exchanged between them.  I'm not sure what those glances meant, but I think that maybe they were impressed.

When it was time for them to leave, M saw them to the door, calling, 'See you in the classroom!' I was so proud of him.  If I ever had any worries about whether he'd have the social confidence to start school at the tender age of four years and two months, today has made them evaporate.  I think it's me who needs to have the confidence to trust him, and to let him go, just a little bit more.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Me and Mine {August 2015}

The first of September already!  I can't quite believe it.  August has been a good month on the whole: I've spent a lot of quality time with my two little boys, we've had a lot of days out and I feel we really made the most of the summer, despite the rather gloomy, rainy weather.  This month, the blog has taken a back seat while we just got on with having fun.  To be honest, the school holidays have worn me out to the extent where finding the energy to edit photos and write posts in the evenings has been beyond me!

I do feel that we've packed as much as I possibly could into this summer, which is exactly what I set out for us to do.  Just over a week to go and the school holidays will be over for us, and we will be entering a brand new routine as a family.  I'm looking forward to it, but also know that I will probably miss the more carefree, let's-not-worry-too-much-about-late-nights kinda days.

So, here's what we've all got up to in August.

I have:

*been enjoying the start of the Great British Bake-Off
*been catching up with some friends for playdates and much-needed school holiday morale support!
*enjoyed a day out at Carsington Water with the family, and a particularly beautiful sunset on the way home
*bought a lovely new yellow raincoat from Joules
*been having mixed feelings about the approach of school for M
*loved hearing M tell me he loves me so much
*loved taking some family shots at a lavender farm in the Cotswolds

Two Boy Daddy has:

*officially started in his new job, and has been enjoying getting paid!
*enjoyed going out for a steak at a new place in town
*had a night out with the lads (although he came home early as he was sleep-deprived!)

M has:

*loved his first sleepover at his Granddad's house
*started to practice his 'American' accent
*a new habit of saying 'Excuse me' before saying anything!
*had a great day out with friends at Drayton Manor Park
*tried pizza for the first time and loved it!
*been getting excited for the start of school
*loved our family movie night where we had sweets and watched 'Over the Hedge'

F has:

*enjoyed trying some new cereals for breakfast
*loved playing with a soft ball in the house
*started to listen more to stories, with 'Snuggle Bunny' being a particular favourite
*started to say 'No no no no!' and 'Mummumumum!'
*found a new place to explore - under the kitchen table
*enjoyed pushing cars along the carpet

Our photos for August were taken on the last weekend of the month, on a visit to Carsington Water where we met up with my mum and step-dad and my auntie and uncle, who had taken their caravans for a weekend away. We had a great day with lots of walking, messing about on the edges of the reservoir, and then topped off with a BBQ.  The boys both had a lovely time.  Here's our Me and Mine photo, followed by a couple of outtakes!

dear beautiful

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Our adventure in lavender

A couple of weeks ago we ticked off one of the things on my summer bucket list, and had a day out to visit a lavender farm. This is something we've never done before, so I was really hoping to get some great photos of our family with the purple fields as a backdrop.

We went to Snowshill Lavender near Bourton on the Water in the Cotswolds. It's a small lavender farm, but it seems to attract people from far and wide: when we visited there were lots of Japanese tourists, who were captivated by F, and gathered round us like he was some kind of baby celebrity! I took the tripod, which I've never been brave enough to use before, and it was great to get some shots of the four of us without having to balance the camera on something or asking a passerby to help.

The lavender was so beautiful - that deep purple was really intense and the scent was heady. We had a lovely little wander around and through the fields, bees buzzing all around us and M giggling as he explored. It felt like summer captured. We sampled one of the gift shop products, lavender fudge, but it was only M who actually enjoyed it! It was a bit too flowery for me and G. On the way home, we stopped in Moreton in Marsh for a mooch around the toy shop and a cream tea.  A lovely family day out, and something I'd like to repeat next summer.

 Here are some of the photos from the day.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

I thought I'd lost him: every mother's nightmare

I had a horrible shock on Tuesday last week.

I took the two boys to a country park to have a picnic and meet up with our friends.  It was a hot day, and the playground section of the park was absolutely teeming with children, with their parents looking on.  We'd finished our picnic, which hadn't gone very well, as M had been sick afterwards, and headed over to the play area while we waited for our friends to arrive.

F began to look like he needed a nap, so I put him into his pushchair while M stood beside us.  I looked up after fastening the straps, and just like that, M had gone.  No big deal, you can't always immediately spot your child when a playground is so busy. I scanned the section of the playground with the sand and wooden climbing frame. He wasn't there. My gaze moved to the fenced in part of the park with the swings and the roundabout.  He wasn't there.  I looked up at the top of the steps that lead to the slide on top of the hill.  He wasn't there.

Ok, I thought, he's here somewhere. There is a lot of kids. He's just standing behind someone.  I changed position a bit and carried on scanning the throngs of children.  I still couldn't spot him.  I heard my rational side telling myself to keep calm, and that if I keep looking, I'll see him run past in a second.  I made myself wait.  But, my little boy did not appear.

For a moment, I felt lost.  What should I do? Stay here and wait till I could spot him? Move about and check the part of the playground inside the fence?  Call his name?

I picked up F and began to move about, a sick feeling gathering in my stomach, and my heart beginning to thud a bit.  I moved all around the play equipment, scanned the nearby tree line of the forest, and walked down to the mini golf course a couple of hundred metres away. He was nowhere to be seen.  Increasingly frightened, I ran up to the slide at the top of the hill, clutching F in my arms, and checked inside the base of the wooden, carved slide. So many little boys. But none of them was my M.

My mind started to race.  Could he have wandered into the nearby car park or road?  Had he decided to explore the forest and had he got lost in there?  There were lakes amongst the trees. Oh God.  Had someone taken him?

By now, about 15 or 20 minutes had gone by.  Too long.  I started to call his name, and then to bellow it.  There was no response.  He didn't come running.  I got stared at strangely by other parents.  F started to pick up on my fear and began to cry.  I couldn't run like I wanted to while I he was in my arms.  My breathing began to get ragged and the tears started to fall.  Then, a kind woman asked me if she could help, and I was so grateful.  She told me to tell the park office staff, while she carried on looking for M.

The staff in the office were amazing. They sat me down, made me give a description of M, and then radioed all of the other park staff.  They all rushed out with instructions to search different sections of the park, and each with a description of my little boy 'dark blonde hair, aged 4, wearing denim dungarees and a colourful striped top'.  They assured me that they'd find him.  But, as I sat there, all my panicking mind would do was go through all the horrible scenarios of what could be happening to my little son, my baby boy. I was beginning to hyperventilate.

Within a few minutes, to my huge relief, someone shouted that they'd found him. I was in too much of a state to ask where they'd found him (but I think it was the kind woman who offered her help). He was looking bewildered: he didn't know what all the fuss was about.  He was safe.

For the next couple of hours, I felt shaky and scared. My legs wouldn't work properly.  I wanted to get away from the overly busy playground, into a space where I could see him clearly.  I didn't dare to take my eyes off him.

It was such a horrible experience.  I'm sure lots of other parents have gone through this kind of thing, but I don't think anything can prepare you for the horror of being faced with the prospect of your child being in danger.  I hope I never have to go through this again.

Have you ever had a similar scare?

My Two Little Brothers {Siblings: August 2015}

Another month has gone by: another month in which I've had the joy of watching the relationship between my two little boys develop.  As always, I'm grateful to Lucy at Dear Beautiful for hosting this lovely linky.  I'm looking forward to seeing my year's worth of photos collected in a collage at the end of this year's project.

There's a strong bond between my two boys already.  They seek each other out; they gravitate towards each other and find each other funny.  I will often be driving somewhere with both of them in the back of the car, and hear them dissolving into the sort of giggles that warm your heart.  It's usually centred around F blowing raspberries (he seems to have carved out a role for himself as the joker in the family), or M pulling funny faces.  They already have their own little world in that back seat that I'm not a part of.  And that's just what I want for them.

This month we have seen some little seeds of frustration between my two little brothers.  Now that F is crawling and cruising, and doing so at lightening speed, nothing that M builds, stacks, draws or creates is safe from his little brother's grasp, and his very natural compulsion to grab, knock down and tear up.  It makes playtime very difficult for me to supervise and it also means that a lot of M's new birthday toys are only played with during F's nap times.

On the whole, M is very tolerant of this bulldozing behaviour but, he is only just four, and of course, he gets upset and frustrated sometimes.  F, who now fully understands the word 'No!' and knows when he's being 'told off' by his big brother, reacts by sticking out his bottom lip in the most comical and pitiful way, and having a little hurt cry.

But, these two little boys love each other so much.  Even if they do frustrate each other sometimes!

dear beautiful