It’s a bit of a cheat from me this week because it wasn’t actually me who took this photo, but I thought it was a great one of the boys (with Grandad), so it deserves to be the photo for this week – thanks to Granny. As we’re soon to move to Birmingham, Grandad is very pleased that the boys can legitimately support his football team, Birmingham City, and he can take them to games just like his Grandad used to take him as a boy. Here they are, the three Bluenoses (the littlest ones in bargain £2 shirts)!
For the past week or so, I’ve been wanting to write about the outdoor fun that we had over Christmas with Grandma and Pop down in Plymouth, but Joel isn’t sleeping very well at the moment – especially a distinct lack of naps in the daytime which means he’s very grumpy by tea time and often falls asleep in his high chair. This has left me with little time or energy after trying to help him nap using various means, so blogging hasn’t been possible. Plus we’ve been busy house hunting, which also leaves me with little time or energy! So finally, here is what we got up to outdoors over Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, the weather forecast said it would be windy but generally dry with the odd shower. We decided to head not too far down the road to Mount Batten, which is on the coast looking over the estuary towards Plymouth city centre. There is a good wide path next to the water and a barrier, so it was a good place to take Andrew’s bike, and there is also a park a little way up the hill which has a great view over the sea. We togged up with waterproofs and woolies to guard against rain and wind, and I should say that this was well before any of the high tides that were really dangerous in the south west after Christmas, as we would never have dared to go that close to the water then.
Andrew absolutely loved the chance to ride his bike, as he always does, and particularly as it was near the sea and river. Joel was tired so he mainly stayed in the buggy with the rain cover on as a wind barrier so he could have a snooze. When we got to the park though, he livened up and was keen to have a go himself, chasing after Andrew and following him onto the swings and slides. The park was just the right size for toddlers, so they were very happy. On our way back from the park to the car, we saw a lovely seal asleep on a lifeboat platform near the yacht yard on Mount Batten. Apparently harbour seals are quite common here, and this one looked very happy snoozing on the warm rubber platform.
On Christmas day, our time outdoors was a walk to church and back, and with all the festivities, there wasn’t time for a trip to a park. So on Boxing day, we headed over to the boys’ uncle and aunt’s house, firstly to see their pets – a lovely rabbit and 2 lively degus – and then for a walk down to the Tamar Bridge at the end of their road. Again, Andrew rode his bike whilst we all walked/jogged after him! First we headed down to the river shore underneath the bridge, where we also found a small park (only a couple of swings remain where there used to be a bigger park next to the river). Then we walked back up the steep hill (Andrew walked rather than rode his bike up), and then across the pedestrian side of the Tamar Bridge. In fact there is a split path – half for pedestrians and half for cyclists, so Andrew took to the side with the picture of a bike on, and rightly so! Joel wanted to walk, so he took to the side with the picture of a person on. It was a lovely bright day, and we all enjoyed getting out for some fresh air and exercise.
The day after Boxing day was our last full day down there, and as the weather was still generally fine, we decided to head to another park. Grandma and Pop had noticed a new park at one of the coastal villages – Newton Ferrars – down the road from their side of Plymouth when they were out walking there one day previously. They knew that the boys would like it and thought it was a bit different from the local ones to them because it was all made out of wood rather than metal. And they were right, it was very popular! It was a bit wet underfoot, so again we had to tog the boys up with full waterproofs, but they loved it. There were a couple of slides (one small enough for Joel and one perfectly sized for Andrew), swings, a climbing frame in the shape of a pirate ship, a bridge with holes in that you have to step over, sand with buckets to play with it and lots more.
The added bonus of this park was the lovely view that we got looking across to the village centre on the waterfront – another estuary reaching into the sea. Once we’d finished in the park, we walked through the woods – where Andrew did some off-road biking, and then walked down to the water to admire the pretty view.
All in all we had great outdoor fun over Christmas, at places very local to where we were staying, where Andrew could ride his bike, Joel could have a toddle, and both could play on the playgrounds – nothing fancy, just good outdoor family fun.
Blogging has fallen to the back of my mind recently with everything else that’s going on. I mentioned in a few of the posts that I did get round to publishing recently that we’re moving cities soon, but unless you know me in real life and have seen me recently, you won’t know much more detail than that. So I thought I’d share what we’re up to, and at the same time getting some thoughts down ‘on paper’ (so to speak) will help me think through things myself! With everything going on and all that I have to do, it’s hard to take time to step back and think.
For a while we had been thinking that at some point we would move out of Cambridge. As much as we love living here and the place has A LOT going for it, especially for young families, there are 2 major downsides for us: 1) it’s not very near our family, especially Tom’s side; 2) it costs an absolute fortune to buy a house here! We were very grateful to our parents who helped us get on the property ladder when we bought our small flat here a few years ago when house prices weren’t quite as crazy as they are now, but we knew that with me choosing to not work (for money) until at least Andrew is at school, there is no way we could afford to live anywhere bigger within the city. Our flat is actually OK for now, but we couldn’t imagine living here in much more than about 2 years time.
So Tom had been ‘passively’ looking for a job at a university in the Midlands – not spending too much time on it, but signing up to a few job email alert systems, to see if anything came up. After quite a while, when he saw one come up at the University of Birmingham that looked perfect for his skills and interests (time-tabling – he has that kind of mind!), he thought he might as well go for it, even though we weren’t thinking of moving right now. To his surprise, he was offered the job, and had 2 months notice to work at his current employer, which ties in neatly with starting the new job on the first Monday of the new year.
Now we have lots to sort out before Christmas, including packing and selling our flat. Thankfully we can live with my parents for a bit until we find somewhere to buy in Birmingham, and the commute won’t be too bad for Tom in the short term. This means we can wait until we have the money from our flat sale before going for anything at the other end, which makes things easier in terms of house moving chains and deadlines etc. We were told that the market in Cambridge is very fast at the moment, and sure enough within a couple of days of going on the market and after our first viewing, we had a good offer, followed by a higher one the day after, and more viewings until we said ‘no more!’ We and the people offering are going to make a decision on Monday, but if all goes to plan (I know that’s a big ‘if’ in house buying/selling!) then we should sell it soon and start the process of all the legal stuff.
So far packing hasn’t been too bad – I’ve been doing bits and bobs when Tom has taken the boys out and when they’re napping, and it’s amazing how much I can get done when I have no little ones around, I’m very productive! I’d already done some sorting over the past few months as we didn’t need everything that we had in the flat, so I feel like we’re starting at a good point and only packing stuff that really needs to go with us.
When I first heard that Tom had got the job, I didn’t know how to feel, and for a few days I was mostly upset at the thought of leaving everything that we love about living here: friends, church, groups, parks, distance from town, cycling/walking everywhere etc. But after the initial shock, I realised that of course in the long run there will be lots of opportunities just like these in Birmingham. And the main points are that we will be nearer family so (great) grandparents get to see grandkids with less of a trek, and we can more comfortably afford a family house, neither of which we can get here.
On Friday I had my first experience of saying goodbye to friends that we have really valued since being in Cambridge – in fact without them I’m not sure we would still be breastfeeding, so that means a lot to me. It was the last LLL Cambridge meet that we can make before Christmas, and it was sad to leave: I still very clearly remember walking into our first ever LLL meet in exactly the same room when Andrew was just 4 weeks old – here I was walking out with a nearly 3 year old Andrew and a 1 year old Joel. This is the first of many sad farewells that we will be making over the next few weeks.
It’s also been hard to think about handing over the voluntary roles that I do here in Cambridge. I started Nappyness library and meet-ups less than a year ago, before we knew that we’d move so soon, and if I had have known this, I don’t think I would have set it up. But I’m glad that I’ve been able to help some families in that time, even if I can’t help here in the future. I’ve just had an offer from 2 lovely mums who are happy to take Nappyness on, so I’m very pleased that this will still be available for local families to benefit from. I’ve also been in touch with a few ladies who started a library in Birmingham around the same time that I started Nappyness, but haven’t had chance to do much with it yet, and would be grateful for help when I get there. So that’s an exciting thing to look forward to as well. I’m also leaving behind my Editor position for the local NCT magazine, which has been a wonderful experience for various reasons. As nobody has yet come forward to take over from me, I think I’ll be helping out at a distance for a little while yet, with lots of help from the other existing team members.
For me this blog post is a record of what this time was like for us, and something to look back on when we’re all settled with a new life in Birmingham. We both believe that this move is what God wants us to do, and that He will guide us through it all, even though it may be stressful and upsetting at times. He’s done it in the past in our own individual lives, and as a couple, and now as a family, and we can look back at how well His plan has worked so far, which gives us confidence for the future. Jesus doesn’t promise that following His way is easy, but He does promise to be with us, and that is an amazing truth to hold onto in unsettling times like this. I felt particularly comforted when we sang these words at the women’s midweek Bible study group this week:
Faithful one, so unchanging
Ageless one, you’re my rock of peace
Lord of all I depend on you
I call out to you, again and again
I call out to you, again and again
You are my rock in times of trouble
You lift me up when I fall down
All through the storm
Your love is, the anchor
My hope is in You alone
It most definitely does not seem like a year has passed since Joel was born! I think it’s gone quicker than Andrew’s first year went, and I think that’s because I’m so busy running around after 2 very active boys that I don’t have much chance to stop, step back and reflect. Last week, halfway through which was his birthday, was a particularly crazy week with lots going on – some the usual, some special things. It’s only in the last few days that I’ve had chance to sit down and write about the year and the birthday celebrations.
He came into the world in a very speedy manner, even faster than Andrew had for a first baby. Apart from some jaundice in the early weeks that took some patience to shift and so to wake him up, he hasn’t had a bad start in life at all. We noticed within a few weeks that he is very chilled out in personality, and has always been happy to get on with his own thing and not complain when not the centre of my attention.
I wonder how much of this is just that he is a second child, but even so, he is clearly much less dramatic about things than his older brother. I also wonder how much it helped that I have worn Joel in a sling every day for substantial amounts of time, whereas I only wore Andrew occasionally in a couple of not very comfortable carriers that we had back then. Even at a year old, I can guarantee that he’ll calm down and fall asleep in our gorgeous toddler sling, as well as be happy to travel about in it when awake.
Both my boys have been very active, and Joel started to move early – by 7 months he was crawling and only a few weeks later he was cruising. He took his first unaided steps at just over 11 months, though he is so fast at crawling that he still chooses to crawl a lot of the time now at 12 months, because it’s so much more efficient than his walking at the moment. This is different from Andrew, who was never much good at crawling and as soon as he could walk at the end of 11 months, he had more incentive to than Joel does. But it won’t be long before I have 2 walking (actually running!) boys to contend with. The wannabe toddler is finally a fully fledged toddler!
His ‘talking’ is starting to sound very speech-like. We are convinced that his first word is ‘Andrew’, because he keeps saying something like ‘a-da’ (with the correct stress pattern) in the right context. Nevermind ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’, let’s get our priorities right here! Of course it’s probably because he hears this word said a lot when we repeatedly call him (to do something / not do something), for which there was no equivalent when Andrew was this age. His favourite syllable to babble is ‘da’, so ‘dadadadadada’ with a lovely intonation and rhythm is what we hear him say most often.
We’re using some baby sign language with him, just like we did with Andrew. We’re concentrating on some key words like Mummy, Daddy, milk, food, drink, nappy, as well as singing songs whilst signing, such as Old MacDonald with all the animals. He hasn’t started signing back yet, but I remember it being quite a while before Andrew did too, as they all pick it up and decide to use it themselves at different rates. In general he’s far more interested in moving than communicating anyway.
His hair is really starting to grow now, and it looks like he’s going to be quite fair, just like Daddy was as a toddler. It also has a bit of a curl to it at the back and on the top, and some days, depending on how it has dried after the bath and how he’s slept on it, the curls can be really quite robust. It won’t be too long before I’ll need to snip it, but for now it looks very cute.
The one thing that everyone seems to notice and comment on about Joel, from the moment he could do it at around 6 weeks, is his smile. It doesn’t take much to elicit a smile from him, and although like any baby/toddler he has tired or sad moments when tears abound, he’s more often than not got a smile on his face – a big wide smile, again just like Daddy. Everyone says that he is a mini Daddy, and I think the smile and face in general contribute to this impression.
To celebrate this first year of his life, we had a meal out with close family at the weekend. We picked a very family friendly pub with great home cooked food in Cambridge city centre (The Cambridge Brewhouse if you’re local and interested). After we’d eaten, we headed home and later had a cup of tea and slice of birthday cake. I love baking and decoration birthday cakes, as you may have noticed from Andrew’s first and second birthdays.
For Joel’s first birthday cake I chose a racing car with a number 1 on the bonnet. I had been given a car mould a while ago and had been waiting for a special occasion to use it. The cake itself was a simple vanilla sponge cake, and I used ready coloured royal icing to roll out and decorate it, having first spread jam all over the car to make the icing stick well. It seemed to go down well with everyone including the birthday boy. I found the very centre of the cake a little dense because it’s a big volume of mixture to cook through, so when I use the mould again I will try putting more raising agent in and a little less mixture, to try and get a lighter cake in the very centre.
As we race into the 2nd year of Joel’s life, I’m glad that I could take this time to reflect on how he is a very healthy and happy little boy with a lovely personality and a gorgeous smile. We are very blessed, and thank God for him.
Some weeks I wonder if we’ll get many funees to write about, and then several turn up on Sunday and Monday, and other weeks I know there have been more but forgot to write them down in my phone. This week there have been lots, and I managed to capture most of them straight away in my notes to write them up later….
First of all, there are still occasions that he gets words mixed up which out of context are totally confusing. I could hear him going on about “bulls over” one morning whilst I was in our bedroom getting dressed and he was in the living room playing (we live in a flat so you can hear everything everywhere, especially when the doors are open!) As I went into where he was, he came up to me and said “look, Mummy, I’ve got a bulls over”. Ah it made sense, it was his toy bulldozer. Another example is the time this week that he grabbed the fish slice after I’d finished dishing up our dinner: “I’ve got a dishwasher!” he said, brandishing the fish slice at me! I think you mean a fish slice Andrew. Fish – dish…. similar!
Recently he’s become very interested in jams. He likes to nick a corner of Daddy’s toast in the morning, and this has jam on it, usually strawberry or raspberry. He also likes sitting in traffic jams – you see you get to spot all sorts of vehicles coming the other way that are harder to get a good loo at if you’re in a moving car yourself. I’m glad someone enjoys them! But all this talk of jams has led to some confusion. One morning he asked “Where’s the traffic jam?” when what he actually meant was “Where’s the strawberry jam?”
Here’s an interesting bit of toddler logic… Andrew insists on strapping himself into his booster seat at the kitchen table to eat. He doesn’t really need it as he can get up and down from it easily on his own. The problem is that although he can clip the buckles together, he can’t undo them on his own. So we get into a situation where he wants to get down at the end of the meal and has to get our attention to get him out, because we forget that he can’t undo the clips. His usual cry is: “Can you strap me out please?!” I like this – he’s heard us say “strap you in”, and he’s applying the logic that it’s the opposite action which he needs. I think the verb “to unstrap” has just become “to strap out” in our house 🙂
At the weekend we went to my parents’ house to see our family as it was half way between the boys’ cousin’s birthday and Joel’s birthday, and one of my cousins is heading back to Australia after living in the UK for a while. At one point on Sunday, Andrew had both his grandad and great grandad in the same room and he needed to differentiate between them: “That’s Great Grandad, and that’s Normal Grandad!” Not sure normal is necessarily the right word to describe my dad, but that’s how Andrew saw it anyway!
The final funee of the week was quite worrying until I figured out what he was on about! When I mentioned yesterday that we were going to the children’s centre for our usual Monday group, he asked: “Are we going to the red light children’s centre….?”Just as I was searching my brain for some explanation of this, he came to my rescue: “….You know, the one with a cooker and pans and slow cooker and all that stuff!” There is one group that we go to at another children’s centre that has a toy cooker with a hob that lights up red if you press a button, just like our hob at home – I presume this is what he was referring to in ‘red light children’s centre’! He has no idea what else that could mean!
At the weekend we went swimming as a family for the first time in a few weeks. I used to go at least once a week when Andrew was little, but now that I have 2 under 3s, it’s impossible to go on my own and I need to wait until we can go as a family. There aren’t many times that our handily very local pool is free when we are all able to go (when Daddy isn’t at work and the boys aren’t asleep). So it was great to seize an opportunity while we could and head to the pool.
We have used the Delphin float system with Andrew since he was about 14 months old, because he was getting so distracted in the pool and wanting to swim off on his own and not be held be me all the time. I decided that floats were easier than arm bands, which I can’t stand blowing up, and you can take one float of the 3 on each arm away to reduce the buoyancy a little at a time. We took it down to 2 a little while ago and he coped very well, and today we thought it was time to try with just one on each arm. He did very well and knew exactly what he had to do to keep afloat by kicking his legs hard, and only needed a little more help than he had done with the two floats per arm.
At one point I saw a noodle float – one of those long cylindrical floats that they seem to use with teaching kids how to swim and in aqua aerobics classes. I tried him with one of these when he was having his distraction issues before I bought the arm floats, but at that time he wouldn’t keep hold of it as he wanted to grab toys and generally splash about and didn’t understand that it would help him stay afloat. But this time he fully understood that this long float could help him, and he was happy to swim with it under his chest with one hand holding on to it and still have a hand free to grab toys. So we took the last remaining Delphin float off each arm and just let him use the noodle, which he loved. Of course we kept a close eye on him because he did occasionally let it slip from underneath him, but was generally able to right himself.
There is usually at least one of these noodle floats in the pool we go to, but now I’m looking out for a cheap one to buy, because then we’ll have it wherever we swim and also at the local pool if it’s busy and someone else is using any that are there. I’m hoping this will now encourage him to swim unaided and give him confidence to do so. I want to avoid paying for expensive lessons as long as possible, and I’m hoping that my knowledge of technique from my competitive swimming days will help me teach him how to go from just splashing about to purposefully moving in the water.
Joel is now starting to get very nosey in the water, just like Andrew was, and is less happy just to be held and swooshed about by us like he used to. So we put the arm floats on him instead, and he was happy to have a bit more freedom and independence. He still needed supporting under the tummy otherwise he tended to float onto his back which he’s not keen on. Having seen how well Andrew has got on with these floats and that it clearly hasn’t impeded his learning to swim as he didn’t seem to get overly reliant on the buoyancy, I’m glad we can now use them on Joel too.
It’s exciting watching my boys grow and develop their water skills, and I’m so glad they find swimming a lot of fun, because that’s the most important thing at this age.
Rather handily, Tom’s parents live in Devon, right at the end near to Cornwall, so every summer we go on holiday and stay with them. Everyone enjoys it because they get to see and play with the grand children, and we get a good rest with meals and washing provided. This year my parents came too, so the boys had a real fill of grandparent attention. We all had a lot of fun, and got up to lots of fun activities. The weather was pretty good for us, not that rain stops us, we just tog up anyway, but it’s nice to be able to get out and about in the dry. I’d definitely recommend all of the places we visited for young children, so if you’re planning on holidaying down that way with little ones, it may be worth taking notes….
This first instalment of what we got up to is all about the National Trust, which you can trust for a good family day out.
Having travelled down from the Midlands with Granny and Grandad on Saturday (we’d stopped for lunch at Tyntesfield, a National Trust property just off the M5 past Bristol, where we saw Gromit!), our first day for exploring was Sunday. We didn’t feel like driving too far, so decided on Antony House, a National Trust property just across the River Tamar into Cornwall. If we were to cross the river by bridge, there is quite a long drive around on the other side, so instead we got the ferry across to Torpoint, and Antony is just a mile or 2 up the road from there.
We usually check the National Trust hand book or app for opening times, but as it was a weekend in the height of holiday season, I guess we didn’t think about it and assumed it would all be open from about 10.30-11am. As we drew up into the car park, there were only a couple of others there, and we noticed that it didn’t in fact open until 12 noon, and even that is only on Sundays in the summer – the rest of the year it’s only open mid week. After we thought about it some more, we remembered that this property is actually still lived in, so it’s completely understandable that they wouldn’t want the world and his wife pouring in every day all year round. But fortunately the woodland walk around the perimeter of the house’s gardens was already open, so we spent an hour wandering around the woods. There are two walks, signposted with green and blue arrows, which was perfect for Andrew who was happy to be our guide and look out for green arrows and point us in the right direction.
By the time we’d done that, the house and gardens were open, so we headed in with our picnic and found a nice spot on one of the lawns. We ate a tasty lunch, despite the fact that Granny forgot to pack the cheese, which then became the joke of the holiday every time cheese or picnic came up in conversation! Andrew and Joel enjoyed playing on the grass too whilst we stayed in that spot for a while. I had also spotted a slide across on the grass over by the other side of the house, so we headed over there and Andrew, once he’d been brave enough to go down the slide once (it was an enclosed tube so not quite what he was used to), had a lot of fun going down it several more times in the next half an hour. Meanwhile Joel was happy to cruise around the story time benches watching Andrew occasionally.
After all that activity we stopped off at the tea room for a cornish ice cream. The boys were getting tired by then, so we made our way slowly back to the car and headed home. The littlest one fell asleep in the car and the bigger one didn’t quite as it wasn’t a very long journey home, so he napped when we got back for an hour. Although we didn’t get to see inside the house, we had a thoroughly enjoyable day outdoors, taking advantage of the beautiful sunshine and the boys’ and our love of being in the fresh air.
A few days later, on Wednesday, we had another trip to a National Trust property. This time we went even more local, to Saltram on the east edge of Plymouth. The weather had been very wet in the morning, though we still got to the local playground and then spent some time with Tom’s extended family over lunch. After the boys had napped, we got in the car and arrived at Saltram just as the weather was looking more promising. First we stopped by the duck pond to admire the cute ducks, ducklings and teenage ducks/ducklings. Then the plan was for Andrew to ride his bike and for us to walk around the extensive grounds, after Andrew took a quick detour into the playground before he discovered that he couldn’t very easily slide down the slide in his waterproof trousers that we’d suggested he wear in case of puddles underfoot (or underwheel).
Andrew sped off down the track so fast that he left us way behind him. We took it in turns to try and catch him up, first Grandma and Pop, then Tom and me, while Granny and Grandad took care of Joel in the buggy. We really had to jog, or even run, to keep up anywhere near him. Occasionally he would slow down to look at something en route, like the cows in the field or a woody bit with ‘off piste’ cycling possibilities. The route goes through fields to begin with, then turns a corner to meet and run alongside the large tidal estuary of the River Plym. So at that point we made him stop and carry on next to us – the adults walking on the side of the path nearest the river and Andrew on the inside, though he kept trying to break the human barrier.
The circular route led us back to the car, and we all headed home having had a good dose of fresh air and a brisk walk (or jog!) As always, even though we’ve been to both these places before, they didn’t fail to provide us with a good day (or afternoon) out. The next instalment of our holiday adventures will focus on the days we had at the beach.
Linking up with the lovely Country KIds linky again 🙂
Today’s Country Kids post is more of a photo gallery than a wordy post, for a couple of reasons – it was Granny and Grandad who actually had the fun with the boys (so I can only recount what Andrew enthusiastically reported on the way home, and the photos are all Grandad’s), and the end of this week has been tiring with a congested toddler and a teething baby waking at night (so I’ve been napping in the day myself instead of writing).
Last Saturday, Tom and I were invited to the wedding of an old friend of ours from university. Although they said that Joel could come with us as he’s still breastfeeding, they were hoping that those with less dependent little ones like Andrew could find alternative childcare. Joel is now feeding a lot less during the day, and not at all when we’re out, so we decided that a few hours away from me would be fine for him too. That would be enough for us to celebrate with our friends at the church and the drinks reception but not stay into the evening. The venue for the wedding was equidistant from us and my parents, so Granny and Grandad jumped at the chance to come and meet us there and spend the afternoon with the boys. We all had lunch together in a friendly pub, and then Tom and I headed off to the church, which turned out to be tiny, and we wouldn’t have been able to easily contain two very fidgety mobile children for an hour within the old pews anyway!
The boys and their grandparents headed off down the road to the National Trust property of Belton House near Grantham. I can see from the guide leaflet that they left in our change bag that it has huge grounds with lots to do for families. The most popular things with our boys were the little train ride and the extensive adventure playground. Andrew got to wear the train driver’s hat, and he keeps going on about the big slide that was very fast. They also enjoyed an ice cream from the cafe. Fortunately it was lovely weather so they could spend the afternoon outdoors, but there is an indoor soft play area too for wet weather days out.
When we met back at the pub again, the three of them who can talk were all raving about how amazing Belton House is for children, and we’ve said that we’ll have to go back again one day – we have friends who live not far and go there often, so we’ve talked about meeting them there. Then I can write more about exactly what it’s like. Both boys were so exhausted from all the excitement that they fell asleep almost straight away on the journey back.
There are many perks of working for King’s College in Cambridge as Tom does. One is of course that he gets to walk past the amazing chapel every day as he goes into and out of his office in the old building next to it. Another is the free cooked lunch that he is entitled to every day. One that we all get to enjoy is the Family Fun Day, which takes place on the Sunday after exams finish in June every year. This year it happened to coincide with Father’s Day. It starts at 1pm and goes on to the evening with a barbecue and music.
It’s organised by the JCR – the undergraduate student committee, a kind of college-based student union – and they invite all the students and staff of the college. There are several bouncy castles/ inflatable games (suitable for both big and small people), giant games like Jenga and Connect 4, face painting and ice creams during the afternoon. Last year Andrew was still a a little young to really appreciate it, but this year he loved it!
First up were the bouncy castles. As we came to the lawn, where for once we were allowed to walk, we saw the big inflatable fun things and immediately Andrew decided to run towards one shouting “It’s a bouncy castle!” excitedly. Daddy dutifully followed and took their shoes off, and that’s where they stayed for the best part of a couple of hours, running between the different ones. I do think it looks slightly incongruous to see big red and blue bouncy objects in front of the historic buildings that are King’s College with Chapel, but I also think it is lovely that for a few days every year the college are not afraid to do this kind of thing (there is also the May Ball where this kind of thing is allowed).
Meanwhile I sat on the lawn and had a rest while Joel was napping in the buggy. Once he’d woken up, we went and joined the older boys and had a bit of gentle bouncy fun. I even went on a few times with Andrew while Daddy had fun with Joel. I particularly liked racing Andrew along the assault course inflatable – he was actually far better than me at climbing up the cargo net to get to the slide at the end!
We then spotted that the man who was doing face painting had arrived and west up and was starting to paint some faces – there was a chart queue of girl students who wanted various things done from pretty flowers to a dalmatian dog! Andrew decided that he would like a face paint too, and he wanted to be spot the dog. So we waited in the not so orderly queue, half hoping that one of the girls would take pity on an impatient toddler every time one of them got up with a finished face, but they were all too keen to get it done.
Spot then decided that he liked the look of the ice cream cart that had arrived when we were queueing for the face painting. We had been thinking that it was probably about time to go home, but as Spot saw more and more people flocking to join the queue for a Toni’s Ice (famous around these parts), he insisted that we should get an ice cream. And it wasn’t too hard to persuade us.
So we got the boys back in the buggies and got an ice cream each (except Joel) to eat on our way home. We’d had a great time, but Andrew was getting tired and Joel (as usual) had refused to feed when out so would soon get grumpy. We weren’t as hardcore as the student revellers who would stay until it got dark (and who probably wouldn’t be woken up at 5am the next morning). Sure enough, Andrew dropped off after he’d finished his ice cream and Joel fed enthusiastically when we got home. It really was a family fun afternoon for us all.
Linking up with #CountryKids over at Coombe Mill’s blog again this week 🙂
“Happy Christmas!” is what we said to the boys’ four grandparents as we stood queuing to get in to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford on the late May bank holiday last weekend. A day out at Duxford with the boys, the toddler among them being very into planes, was our Christmas present to all of them. We never know what to get them, so these days this kind of present is one of the easiest to do because we know everyone will enjoy it.
We just needed to find a day when all of use were free and the grandparents were available to come to Cambridge, and we’re glad that we waited until now because the weather was amazing – beautiful blue skies, even if there was quite a blustery wind that was particularly acute on the big open airfield that is Duxford Air Museum.
The fairly substantial queue to enter moved very quickly, so we were soon in and faced with the tough decision of what to look at first – there was so much to choose from, with several hangars full of planes and other exhibitions and war-time memorabilia as well as static planes outside and of course plenty of planes taking off and landing on the runway. As it was such a nice day and Andrew was very excitable seeing all the planes outside, we decided to walk outside with the runway on our left. Of course Andrew ran rather than walked, but he had four grandparents happy to chase after him and keep an eye on him.
One of the first planes we came across positioned on the ‘parking’ strip parallel to the runway, was being prepared for taking off later. It was a plane that had been used in the second World War, and the sign in front of it explained that it would be taking off in about half an hour with several other little planes (Spitfires and Mustangs) to do a fly by over Duxford and continue over other parts of Cambridgeshire before coming back and landing at Duxford. We knew that this would be spectacular and a real treat for Andrew, and we weren’t disappointed when the display happened.
Further along the airfield were some old planes that were set up to allow visitors to look inside. Unfortunately only one of these was open due to a lack of volunteers to man them, but Andrew (and we) were fascinated by the interior, especially the cockpit where the ‘driver’ sits. It was a Monarch passenger plane from the 1960s. I had to laugh at the baby crib hanging from the overhead storage above the seats – don’t think health and safety would allow that these days!
Near the end of the airfield, once we’d walked most of it’s length outside, we entered an indoor display of American fighter planes including a B-52 bomber. There was a ramp that went up and down around the edge of the hangar, which Andrew used for a game of ‘make the grandparent chase me’ – it wasn’t very busy. This ramp with a see-through barrier was perfect for allowing little people (and big people) to get very close up to the top of the planes and see inside the cockpits from the outside, as well as seeing the planes from underneath by walking on the ground floor. In fact I would say that the set up of the museum in general is fantastic – you can get so close to the planes, walk right underneath them and almost (but of course not) touch them, and for many of them you get higher up views or even interior views.
Then it was time for a lovely picnic lunch. We sat on one of the many picnic benches that are there and had brilliant views of the planes that were taking off and landing – most were little bi-planes that were flying around locally, some with visitors that had paid to have a short flight in one, and we also saw the planes lands that had taken part in the fly-by. All this while we were eating our sandwiches was pretty impressive.
After lunch we headed back along the airfield and stopped to look at a few planes on the way. Of course we couldn’t miss one of Andrew’s favourite planes – the playground in the shape of a plane – this had to be the icing on the cake for him! He loved climbing in and out and running through it, and sitting on the plane shaped bouncers.
We were aware that he was getting tired, so suggested that we saw one last building with planes in before heading home. I really wanted to see it because that building housed a real Concorde plane and I felt like that was a bit of aviation history that I can personally remember. After I’d translated for a group of French school pupils who were visiting and trying to fill in activity sheets with facts about Concorde, we all took a look inside it – a very long narrow metal tube really, but fascinating nonetheless.
That concluded our plane-filled day out and we all went home tired but happy, especially our little plane spotter!
Thanks to Grandad for the photos of the fly by and to Granny for a couple of photos on the playground
Linking up with #CountryKids over at Coombe Mill’s blog