Winter garden fun – #CountryKids

There are many reasons why we are enjoying living at Granny and Grandad’s house temporarily. One of these is the fact that they have a nice garden with lots of space to play. Having come from a flat, though we were lucky enough to have almost sole use of the communal garden there, it’s a real luxury just to be able to open the door and run out to play, knowing that the boys are fully enclosed. With the weather being so rubbish this week, and us being ill at the start of the week, it’s been good just to be able to get out between showers without going too far and getting drenched.

Slide Collage 1

The boys’ main point of interest this week and last has been the slide that Andrew got for his birthday. I know they like slides at the park, but I guess with other equipment there the fun gets spread around, whereas in the garden this is THE thing to climb on! (They haven’t taken to climbing the trees…yet!) I love how kids like nothing better than repetition – somehow doing the same thing over and over again entertains them for hours. Andrew can of course do it entirely unaided, and how dare I offer to help! Going down on your bottom forwards is for wimps, so instead we see all angles attempted, though some (like head first on tummy) he’s discovered aren’t too comfortable. Joel tries to do the whole slide thing himself, and has a good go, but as it’s really meant for 2-6 year olds, the steps are quite big for him, and an arm stretched out to Mummy appears. He’s not afraid of the relatively steep drop for his size though, and laughs as he whooshes down.

Slide Collage 2

Although the slide is brand new, the older garden toys still get a look in. Joel is particularly fond of the seesaw, probably because it’s just the right height for him to get on and off himself, which isn’t the case at the park. What you see behind the seesaw in the pictures just below is a Little Tikes toy kitchen – there’s a bit of a story behind how we acquired this… Granny and Grandad were walking down the road near to home one day and spotted this kitchen in a skip on the drive of a house. It looked in perfect working order, if a little grubby, so they knocked on the door and asked politely if there was any chance they could have it. The man at the door said of course they could, it used to be for their grandchildren but they have now grown up, and he even offered to drop it round to our house in his van! So with a bit of a clean up with the hose, it’s now got a new home to get loved by another set of grandchildren, who love playing with (toy) kitchens. Those are the pots and pans that came with it scattered on the grass. A good bit of recycling that would otherwise have ended up at the tip.

Seesaw Collage

Talking of recycling, the boys are always fascinated by cardboard boxes and other such ‘interesting’ bits of rubbish. The slide came in a big box, which when flattened out on the grass became a ‘trampoline’ for a while. They had great fun jumping up and down on it, rolling balls over it and generally treating it like a toy rather than something to go in the recycling box. It’s amazing how far a little imagination can go when it comes to cardboard!

Box Collage

It’s particularly good to have an enclosed space outdoors for Joel, because he is surprisingly fast for his age and I find I need eyes in the back of my head when out with the two of them on my own at the park. Of course he can still get into mischief in the garden – like when he takes an interest in the compost bins (pictured bottom right below) – but generally it’s a pretty child proof environment. On this particular day he was getting tired towards the end of our play outside, so at one point just lay down on the grass and kicked his legs in the air – pity he never adopts this pose when I’m actually trying to change his nappy rather than running off immediately!

Joel garden Collage

Another of Andrew’s favourite ‘toys’ that isn’t a toy is the water butt and watering can combo. Ever since he learned how to get water out of the tap on the butt, he’s keen to water the plants at every opportunity, even if they clearly don’t need watering (he obviously hasn’t realised how much rain we’ve had recently!) But despite the fact that he didn’t really need to water the garden, it was alright to be emptying some water from the butt, because there was a blockage at some point between the two butts (one doesn’t have a tap on so just flows into the other, if all is well) and Grandad needed us to get rid of a bit of water so he could investigate. So we filled a few watering cans and poured them onto the garden or then down the drain once the plants were well and truly saturated. Andrew took charge, showing Joel how it’s done.

Water Collage

No post about garden fun could be complete without a word on the various forms of food and drink that are on offer for local wildlife, mainly birds, though squirrels get their oar in too, and Grandad has created a ‘hedgehog home’ out of scraps of tree and other foliage at the back of the garden (which you can just about make out in the bottom left picture below).Andrew is often intrigued by the nut holders and other equipment that is rigged up on the lawn, and likes to help Grandad mend it and top up the food/water when necessary. There’s even a tray on the lawn at their height for putting food out like scraps of bread and fat (pictured on the top left). I could write a whole post about bird watching with kids in this garden, or better still get Grandad to write it – he blogs at Garden Twitter.

Animal food Collage

Although it’s been cold and wet recently, we’ve still had fun togged up in the garden whenever we can, and now the evenings are getting noticeably lighter, it’s so positive to be able to get out even after afternoon naps for an hour or so. Roll on spring! We’re also looking forward to having a garden at our new house, where the new slide will live and where I’m sure we’ll have many more good outdoor times to come.

I’m linking up with the fabulous Coombe Mill blog for #CountryKids again this week.

52 photos – week 5

week5

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)!

Camels in Devon fields – wot so funee?

Things have been quiet on the blog for over a week because we’ve been away on a lovely family holiday. As much as I love blogging, I enjoy a rest from all the fun (and not so fun) things I do at home and it gives me time to reflect and think rather than write all the time. In the blogging silence, however, there has been no shortage of sounds coming from the mouths of babes, and in particular from Andrew in his toddler speech heyday.

One thing that I’ve noticed him pick up is “I said…” in the context of giving an order or, more specifically, repeating an order. This came out quite a lot on the way down to Devon. Whenever I took one of my hands off the steering wheel, for example to change gear, he noticed and ordered: “No Mummy, hold on to there, I said hold on to there!” (by ‘there’ he meant the steering wheel). At one point he even insisted that I put my hands higher up the wheel; he presumably couldn’t see them from his angle. It’s lovely that he’s so concerned for road safety, but it’s also highly annoying when I’d like to change the position of my hands on the wheel after they’ve been stuck driving in a straight line on the motorway for the past half an hour! Incidentally, he also tells me to “hold on to there” when I’m pushing his buggy with one hand instead of two, and continues reminding me until I keep two hands on the handle bar.

Another little stock phrase that he’s been slipping in is “if I like to”. He’ll usually tag it onto a request that he’s putting in to do something, for example “I can play with toys, if I like to”, which I would translate as “please can I play with some toys?” Other cases this week have included food requests, such as having a cake “if I like to”.

A couple of questions that he’s very keen on asking at the moment are “Where going to?” (translated as “where are we going?”) and “Where’s [insert noun] gone?” He started these a while before holiday, but they came out in force over the week, as he was interested to know our plans for the morning and afternoon each day and was concerned that he didn’t miss out on a thing. On the way home from an exciting adventure one day he chirped: “where’s my house gone?” We weren’t sure if he really meant our house back in Cambridge or Grandma and Pop’s house where we were staying for the holiday. So we explained that we would be going back to their house again now, and then back to ours another day. I’m not sure if he got it, but it didn’t seem to bother him again.

Andrew has been doing fairly well at potty training, but we decided that a week away with extra pairs of hands to do other stuff for us would be a great opportunity to give him full attention and crack it. And it did go very well I have to say. One morning he had done something in his potty and got up from it to tell us. Tom and I were sitting in the room at the time, and Grandma came in the front door just at that moment – she’d been out shopping. To greet her, Andrew came out with a very proud: “Andrew done poo in potty, it came out of my bottom and went doink!” What delightful news to be greeted with on your return from the shops! Looking back I don’t think I ever blogged the other classic potty quote from a while back, so I’ll throw it in here as the topic has come up: “Look Daddy, it’s like a sausage!”, as Andrew proudly showed off his potty offering to Tom one morning.

Moving on…. Andrew has had a good dose of nature this past week as we’ve spent a lot of time outdoors. (I have A LOT of material to blog about for the Country Kids linky over the next month or so.)  On our second trip to the beach, he spotted something in the sand that he’d heard about on our first trip to the beach: “Look, there’s a shelf!” No, nothing from B&Q had washed up on the beach, it was just a shell. I can see how easy it is to confuse the two words though, because the ‘f’ sound of shelf isn’t very prominent at the end of a word, and he’s probably heard us say shelf more often than shell.

Alpaca

On the way back from that beach, when Andrew was supposed to be dropping off for a nap but was slightly hyper rather than sleepy, he suddenly exclaimed: “Look, I can see camels over there!” To which we replied something along the lines of “really?!” Then I realised that he was pointing to the field of sheep in front of us, so I said something like “they’re sheep Andrew”. But he was insistent that they were camels. At first I thought he was going slightly loopy, but thinking about it later I realised where the confusion may have arisen. When we visited Coombe Mill earlier in the week, we saw some alpacas which had been shawn fairly recently, so their fluffiness looked similar to how Andrew has seen sheep who’ve recently been shawn, and of douse an alpaca also looks like a camel. I think that was his logic at least!

Finally, there came a classic line when we arrived back at Granny and Grandad’s house (our handy stop over place) on our way back from Devon. On the morning that we’d left for holiday, Andrew had been watching one of Grandad’s favourite DVDs – Thunderbirds. A week later, when we were back there and suggested that he could watch a DVD whilst I cut his hair, he asked if he could watch the same DVD of puppeteering excellence: “Wonderbirds!” Not a bad name for it I reckon – I do wonder if Andrew and his generation will wonder what on Earth it is!

Wot So Funee?

Fun at Belton House – #CountryKids

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!

Belton Collage 1

Belton Collage 2

Belton Collage 3

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.

Belton Collage 4

Belton Collage 8

Belton Collage 5

Belton Collage 6

Belton Collage 7

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.

Belton Collage 9
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
 

Fun in the ‘garden’ with our Little Pals gardening set – #CountryKids

Before I knew I was pregnant with Andrew, we were looking to buy a flat in Cambridge. The week after we paid a reserve deposit on a newly built flat in a great location within walking distance from the city centre (about 30 minutes), a pregnancy test showed up positive. I’m not sure knowing this earlier would have affected our decision – with property prices being so high around here we wouldn’t have afforded anywhere bigger within the city – but one thing I was slightly concerned about was that we had no garden of our own for a small child to have fun in. But there is a communal garden, which we do use quite a lot to play in, and there are a few local parks only a short walk away, and we have a balcony, which isn’t a bad size. It’s on this balcony that we’ve had fun with gardening recently – and I like to think that our situation is proof that you don’t need a big garden to have gardening fun with a toddler!

Andrew and Granny planting seeds
Andrew and Granny planting seeds

Over the nearly 3 years that we’ve been here, we’ve managed to grow more and more food on our balcony. It first started off with a couple of tomato plants; this year we have four tomato plants in big (faded) red planter bags, several runner bean plants (some in a planter bag and some in a tub hanging over the balcony rail), strawberries, various herbs, radishes, onions, carrots and lettuces (all in tubs hanging over the balcony rail). We also have some sunflowers, but they’ve had to come in as a slug ate one of them. I have to say that it’s really Granny who’s taken the lead on this, bringing seeds and plants as she’s sorted out some for her own garden. I’m not naturally the most green fingered person, but Tom enjoys watering and tending to plants, and now he has a helper in the form of Andrew!

Andrew (and Daddy) doing some watering
Andrew (and Daddy) doing some watering

So when I heard about the BritMums Kids Grow Wild challenge, through which we could grab ourselves a Little Pals gardening set, I knew this would be perfect for Andrew who is keen to help with the gardening. Unfortunately it didn’t arrive in time for Granny’s visit when she and Andrew did the actual planting into tubs of the seeds and plants that she had prepared for us, but Andrew has still has lots of fun watering every day with his very own watering can, and putting on the gloves as he inspects how the plants are doing (rather heavy handedly at times!)

Gloves on, inside and out!
Gloves on, inside and out!

The set comprises a bag with the perfect sized carry handles for little hands, a proper metal watering can, trowel and garden fork, a small pair of gardening gloves and some seeds. Andrew is very impressed, and often plays with the bag and gloves even when not gardening! We’ve left the trowel and fork outside in the high tubs out of his reach, as he’s only allowed to use them with our supervision – they are really very sturdy, and knowing him he’s probably do some serious damage if left to his own devices.

The Little Pals gardening set
The Little Pals gardening set

When Granny came with all her stuff, Andrew was very interested in helping her plant seeds and transfer plants to our tubs. I’m glad that he’s learning from an early age about how plants start off from seeds and grow. He didn’t quite get it at first that you have to wait and watch as they grow slowly – he expected them to grow immediately like on the Waybuloo app on Grandad’s iPad! But now he’s slowly realising, I think, that they are gradually growing and we have to wait before we can eat things from them. He keeps saying that he wants a bean when they are ready. Every evening when Daddy comes in from work, they go out on the balcony together and water the plants, each with their own watering can. Next year we can use the seeds that came in the Little Pals set, or maybe we can squeeze another tub onto the balcony this year, we’ll see!

Our tubs on the balcony
Our tubs on the balcony

How big is your garden? Hopefully this post will inspire anyone who thinks that their garden (or equivalent!) is too small to do much with – it is possible to have gardening fun, especially if you’re 2 years old! I’ll leave you with a video of us (well actually me: Andrew got camera shy) singing ‘I dig my garden’ – one of Andrew’s favourite songs to sing at the moment (when he doesn’t think anyone is listening/filming); he also recounts how he dug with Granny and Grandad, and shows his enthusiasm for his little fork 🙂

This post is an entry for the BritMums #KidsGrowWild Challenge – more details at Moneysupermarket.com 

The Little Pals set was sent to us free of charge. All views expressed are honest and our own based on our experience of using the set.

I’m also linking up to #CountryKids over at Coombe Mill’s blog.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Duxford Air Museum – #CountryKids

“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.Duxford 5 Collage

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.

Duxford 3 Collage

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.

Duxford 6 Collage

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.

Duxford 1 Collage

Duxford 2 Collage

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

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
 

The big green in the big smoke – #CountryKids

Last weekend we went down to London to meet my cousin (that’s the boys first cousin once removed – we’ve looked it up!) and his wife who had just flown in from Australia. We drove to my brother and family’s flat in West London, where Granny and Grandad had also stayed the night, parked there, had a cuppa and used my niece’s darkened quiet bedroom to feed Joel in as he really doesn’t want to miss out on excitement so won’t feed properly when we’re out.

Lovely scenery on the drive down, and waiting for the bus in London
Lovely scenery on the drive down, and waiting for the bus in London

Then we all headed out to Richmond. There were no trains running on the overground line that we needed due to engineering works. So a rail replacement bus it was. Fortunately Andrew loves any form of transport, so a bus was almost as exciting as a train. After crawling through some pretty heavy Sunday traffic, we arrived at Richmond station.

Running around on Richmond Green, with yellow bouncy ball
Running around on Richmond Green, with yellow bouncy ball

There was about half an hour before our Aussie family would arrive, so we walked up the high street and turned down a side road that led to Richmond Green. Andrew was keen to get his bouncy ball out, the one he got as a souvenir from Birdland two weeks previously, and throw/kick it whilst running around, including towards some pigeons who (funnily enough) ran away at this, much to Andrew’s surprise. His uncle and aunt also had a kick about of his small football. As we were on this big green, I found it amazing to think that we were in London – just behind a row of buildings was the busy high street with buses, cars and trains going by, and yet we had a lovely green space to run around on away from the hustle and bustle.

Walking by the Thames and feeding the geese/pigeons (and Joel eating lunch)
Walking by the Thames and feeding the geese/pigeons (and Joel eating lunch)

As time got on, we headed back to the station to meet the visitors, and then we all crossed the road to have lunch at an Italian restaurant. Once we’d enjoyed a yummy meal, we had a leisurely walk back along the high street and back across the green, where Andrew insisted, quite rightly, on getting his bouncy ball out again, and then we carried on down to the river. It was such a beautiful day, so we walked along the river for a while. Andrew found a wall to walk on that separated the path from a grassy bank on our left (the river was to our right.

He was still insistent that he needed his ball, even though we tried on several occasions to suggest that we put it away now so it didn’t roll into the river. And as we had feared, the bouncy ball that was so new did meet a very watery end that day and must now be residing at the bottom of the Thames! He also invented a new game called run around the tree until you’re dizzy – the last bit of it is in the video, along with Granny asking where his ball is and me and him saying it’s in his hand, so this was before the fatal lob Thames-ward.

After a coffee/cold drink stop in a riverside cafe, where Joel also had a small attempt at feeding, we headed back to the station to wave the Aussies on their way back to their London stop over flat, and then we caught the bus back to our car and drove home – two very tired boys fell asleep almost straight away.

Homeward bound
Homeward bound

 Linking up with #CountryKids over at Coombe Mill’s blog again today 🙂

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

A half birthday

I can’t quite believe that Joel turned 6 months old this week. It only seems like yesterday that he was a newborn, all squishy, little and quiet (most of the time – honestly, he really didn’t cry much at all). Now he’s much bigger and heavier, can roll across the room faster than the time it takes for me to put a load of washing on, and is starting to make some syllabic sounds as he babbles away. I know I experienced these big changes in the first 6 months of Andrew’s life too, but it still never ceases to amaze me just how much my boys are changing all the time. It’s only when I stop and reflect like this that I am totally wowed by the growth and development of the human body – for me this is a real physical reminder of the amazing creator God who I believe in.

Joel a few hours after birth
Joel a few hours after birth

On the whole I am loving my role in life of looking after two little boys. I can’t deny that there have been some hard times – I am human myself after all, and despite my best efforts to be ‘super-mum’, I do have limitations like the possession of only two hands and two eyes (neither in the back of my head) and no super power to avoid the effects of sleep deprivation. But given that there is only a 21 month age gap, so I had two kids under two in my care for 3 months of Joel’s life, I think it’s not bad going that there’s so far only been one occasion when all three of us were in tears at one time (there have been other combinations of one or two of us in tears, mainly the boys).

I can’t claim that this is all my own doing though. I am very blessed to have such a supportive husband who helps out so much with the boys, and it’s a real blessing to both of us that his job is only a 15 minute cycle away so he gets home not long after he finishes at 5pm; things would be a lot harder for me if I didn’t have this help. We also have very supportive parents, and although they don’t live in Cambridge, they come as often as possible to help us; my mum is the most regular visitor every couple of weeks or so for a day, and Tom’s mum usually comes at half-term holidays for several days in a row; our dads have been more weekend visitors with our mums. And looking back over these past 6 months, I can see that Jesus has been with us too, helping me get through some difficult days, even those in which I had little time or space (with the demands of two children being my priority) to talk to him properly in prayer. I don’t think I would have got to where I am now in one piece without Him answering our prayers and the prayers of others on our behalf.

1 month.......2 month.......3 months
1 month…………………………………….2 months……………………………………3 months

For about the first 3 months, I would say that the hardest part of my role wasn’t looking after a newborn – he slept, fed, slept, fed, and not much else, plus I’d looked after a newborn before – no, the hardest part was looking after a newborn AND a 1year old toddler at the same time – I’d not done that before, and was still learning how best to meet Andrew’s needs that were evolving all the time.

There are not many ways in which these past 6 months have been similar to the first 6 months of Andrew’s life – the only big one that I can think of is the similar amount of sleep that I’ve had. In many ways having my first baby and my second have been very different experiences. It could partly be to do with their different personalities, but I think the main difference has been that I know more about what I’m doing and therefore feel less stressed about what I ‘should’ be doing according to society’s parenting wisdom. I always felt I was fairly laid back with how things went with Andrew, and took a mainly baby-led approach with the various aspects of parenting in the early months, but I have noticed that I’ve been even less worried about how things are going this time, I guess because I’ve seen the positive outcomes of the baby-led approach with Andrew.

4 months.................5 months
4 months…………………………………………………………..5 months

One particular aspect of these first 6 months that I’ve been reflecting on, and how different it’s been the second time around is breastfeeding (I already blogged some of these thoughts here). Overall it’s been a much more enjoyable experience this time. In Andrew’s first 6 months I kept on breastfeeding more out of determination than anything else (I am a very determined person!) and my goal was just to get to 6 months; but when I got there, breastfeeding fairly soon became something I enjoyed rather than something I thought was my duty to my baby, and that’s why we carried on (that baby turned toddler still doesn’t think he’s too big for mummy milk!) At 6 months feeding became less about calorific intake and more about the non-nutritional aspects, so I felt less stressed when I (with the help of formula in the SNS) wasn’t the only source of food as he started to eat solids.

This time I have been able to enjoy this longer term perspective right from the start, knowing that even in the difficult times of constant feeding as a baby, it would get better and would all be worth it in the end. Although there was a bit of an issue with his weight (in the GP/health visitor’s eyes) around 2 months, this soon righted itself, and I’ve just realised that I haven’t had him weighed for a couple of months, which has helped, I’m sure, in me feeling less stressed about feeding – he is clearly growing and getting heavier. In fact I think the better experience of breastfeeding, and also having learned how the health system sees breastfeeding compared to my own natural instincts as a mum, have together made the biggest difference to how I’ve felt as a mum of a baby in these past 6 months compared to how I felt last time. And as I said above, I’m sure my prayers, even exhausted and fed up at 2am, have helped.

6 months
6 months

So there we go: I survived the first 6 months of life with 2 kids, and, more to the point, so did they – hooray! Now to carry on with life – looking after a growing baby who’s looking more and more like a little boy rather than a little baby and a toddler whose ability to communicate with me is getting more and more sophisticated.

Old MacDonald had a farm….. of choc chip shortbread animals!

Earlier in the week I blogged about making gingerbread men. At the time I made 2 different biscuit doughs, the other one being a choc chip shortbread which Andrew cut into animal shapes using a set of cute animal cutters that I was given for Christmas. The idea behind putting choc chips in was to try and get the effect of patches of darker colour on the animals, just as cows have, and often sheep, pigs, horses and ducks are more than just one colour. The problem with the chips was that they got in the way of the cutter slicing through the dough to the board, so the shapes didn’t come out as clearly as they would have without the chips – this was probably not helped by the fact that my chips were very chunky whereas using ready made chips that you can buy might have worked better as they tend to be smaller; I just think those are so expensive compared to chopping up your own chocolate.

The reason we made these, apart from it being a fun way to spend an afternoon, was as a present for Granny’s birthday. I created a photo mug online using photos of her with my little boys, and thought it would be nice to bake some biscuits to go with the tea that she can make in the mug. There’s also a story behind the Old MacDonald theme…. for Andew’s birthday, Granny and Grandad bought him one of those musical cards that blasts out Old MacDonald at full pelt when you open it, which Andrew found fascinating! Here’s a video of it – may I suggest that you only play it if you don’t mind having the song in your head for the rest of the day! In buying this card they have perpetuated a family joke that started when my grandparents bought my brother and me musical cards one Christmas, and my brother kept opening and closing his in fascination, much to the annoyance of everyone else in the room.

If you fancy making these yourself, in whatever shape you like, here’s the recipe, which is very simple to make. The semolina and granulated sugar help to give it a slightly crunchy texture as well as being lovely and ‘short’ or crumbly.

Ingredients

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g semolina
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 200g margarine or butter
  • 100g chocolate, chopped into small chunks, or ready-made chocolate chips

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (fan), and prepare a couple of baking sheets by lining with greaseproof paper.
  2. Cream the margarine/butter and sugar together until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add the chocolate chips and stir in until well distributed.
  4. Add the flour and semolina and mix until a stiff dough forms, using your hands to do the last bit when it’s too stiff for a spoon.
  5. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut out shapes using biscuit cutters.
  6. Place the dough shapes on the baking sheets and bake in the oven for about 10 – 15 minutes until slightly golden on top.
  7. Remove from the oven and eat as fresh as possible, storing in an air-tight container until eaten.

Wheat-free gingerbread men

This week we’ve had Grandma and Pop with us for a few days. It’s been great fun for Andrew, and even Joel has got some giggles for them too now. For me it’s been very helpful to have extra pairs of hands that get on with the household tasks when not otherwise occupied by a toddler or a baby. When they were all out at Andrew’s weekly music group yesterday, I stayed at home with Joel as he’s getting increasingly difficult to feed when we’re out because he gets so distracted by everything going on. When Joel was napping I prepared some biscuit doughs so that Andrew could do some rolling and cutting out later on in the afternoon after his nap – this is his favourite part of baking biscuits. One was a wheat-free gingerbread dough (Grandma is wheat-intolerant) and one was a choc chip shortbread dough (I’ll blog about this later in the week).

I know that Andrew loves making gingerbread men, mainly because he excitedly repeats ‘gingerbread mans’ with pretty good accuracy in terms of his vowels and consonants, but we’ve only ever made a wheaty recipe. So I googled and came across Coeliac UK’s website which has a gluten-free gingerbread man recipe. As far as I understand, if something is gluten-free it’s also wheat-free, but something that’s wheat-free might not be gluten-free because gluten is also part of other cereals (such as oat/barley gluten). I adapted it slightly – self-raising wheat-free flour instead of separate flour and raising agent, a bit more ginger as I like very gingery gingerbread (!), margarine instead of butter, honey instead of golden syrup. So here’s the recipe as we made it…

Ingredients

  • 225g wheat-free self-raising flour
  • 100g margarine
  • 2 level teaspoons ground ginger
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted honey

Method

  1. Mix the flour and ginger together, then rub in the margarine to form a breadcrumb texture.
  2. Add the sugar and mix to a stiff dough with the melted honey.
  3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, and cut out men (or other shapes) with a little man cutter.
  4. Bake at 180°C (fan) for 8 – 10 minutes.
  5. Leave to cool before decorating with writing icing to make the features like eyes, mouth and buttons.
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