Garden fun – #CountryKids

After quite a few weeks of blogging about our out and about adventures for Country Kids, I thought it would be good to do another garden fun post, especially because this week I have really appreciated the fact that we now have a garden (admittedly this particular one is temporary, but we do have one at our new house too). The first two days of this week were very showery, so the garden was the perfect place to be in the afternoons after nap because we could just nip back in again or shelter under the gazebo if the rain got too heavy for a little while, then go back out again when it stopped. Wednesday afternoon I realised just how much we appreciate going in the garden – a case of you don’t know just what you’ve got til it’s gone – because it was absolutely pouring with rain the whole afternoon and even the boys didn’t want to go out in that, so got very wound up inside, and trying to entertain a 3 year old and 19 month old with the same indoor activity for a few hours is tricky. So now I am so grateful when we can just open the door and get out in the garden.

Garden fun 1 jpg

One of Andrew’s favourite role play games at the moment is to pre tent to be an ice cream seller. He stands behind his kitchen and shouts out “Anybody want an ice cream?” loudly and repeatedly until someone takes him up on the offer. He then takes a shuttlecock for the cone, and various coloured balls act as ice cream scoops of different flavours. Recently his ice cream business has branched out into toasties – white discs that go in the giant connect-4 game which come apart and he can sandwich some knid of filling inside for you. In these pictures, Joel was also joining in with this game, even if he didn’t realise it: Andrew said he was doing the washing up, which is fair enough because he was standing by the sink.

Garden fun 2 jpg

The slide that Andrew got for his birthday in the winter and which will come with us to our new house rather than staying at Granny and Grandad’s house when we move is always popular with both boys, even though it says from age 2 – things like that don’t bother kamikaze Joel. Recently Andrew has taken to going up the ladder behind Joel and making them do a “doubler”, that is slide down the slide together, Joel at the front and Andrew at the back. They both seem to like it, even if it does take Joel by surprise sometimes. They both like sliding down it in the most unconventional ways too, like Joel has on his front in the bottom right picture here.

Garden fun 5 jpg

The seesaw is also popular, even if not always as a seesaw. Joel likes turning it on its side and climbing over it like it’s a climbing frame! Andrew likes it when I get on too.

Garden fun 3 jpg

A popular game this week has been the junior putting golf set that Great Grandma bought for them last week. Here you see them using a rather large bouncy ball rather than a small plastic golf ball, which was hilarious to watch! They did do a pretty good job at sharing it though, which isn’t always the case these days, though it does help that we have (at least) 2 clubs. Andrew got more annoyed with the wind than with Joel, as it kept blowing the green strip up until we weighed it down.

Garden fun 4 jpg

Andrew is still not really into doing much drawing or painting – he’ll happily cut and stick but he’s not so fussed about colouring with crayons or paint. But I thought it would be a good idea to try and encourage him to do a bit more by getting the paints and his easel outside. He had a bit of a go this week and painted a penny farthing (the orange picture) and a rocket (the purple picture), two of his favourite vehicles. Joel was eager to get at the paints, but I only had enough pairs of hands to supervise one lot of painting at a time, and by the time Andrew was finished, Joel wasn’t bothered and was off playing in the garden. In general Joel has shown more interest in colouring and painting when we’re at groups than Andrew has. I’m interested to see if Andrew becomes more interested in these things once he goes to pre-school in September.

Linking up our garden fun with the fab #CountryKids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Don’t get Thunderbirds wrong! – wot so funee?

As I sit and start to type this post, it’s pouring with rain outside. To be fair, it hasn’t been too rainy recently, but it’s making up for it today. This seems a good point to start with a funee moment from when the boys were at the park with Daddy at the weekend. Andrew was standing on the ground and Joel was just above him on the climbing frame, looking down. Andrew looked up to the sky and said: “Is it raining Daddy?” And Daddy’s (honest) reply was: “No Andrew, it’s just Joel dribbling on your head!” This is quite normal for Joel – copious amounts of dribble are often seen escaping from his mouth, hence the need for mummy-made super absorbent dribble bibs.

As usual, we’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the garden this past week, especially when I was ill and it was the easiest thing to entertain the boys with, simply by opening the door and letting them run off steam without too much effort from me. Andrew is very into the game pictured here, though this was taken after Joel had knocked it down and put golf balls in some of the holes – little brothers can be SO annoying! Andrew has heard us say the name of the game quite a bit, but the other day he asked if we could play it before I mentioned any names…

Andrew: “Can we play forget 4 please?”

Me: “Forget 4??”

Andrew: “No wait…. cadet 4?”

Me: “Ah I think you mean CONNECT 4 Andrew!” 🙂

IMG 1785

The trees are starting to be colourful again, so we’ve been talking about spring and what this means in terms of tree life cycles. Granny and Grandad’s garden has a lovely (except when it sheds all its petals in one go) magnolia tree, which is currently making the lawn look like it’s been hit by a freak snow storm. To try and cheer me up when I was ill, Andrew came up to me and kindly offered me a petal: “Look, here’s a blossom for you Mummy! There’s lots of blossoms here.” Aw, cute that he thinks one petal is one blossom rather than blossom being the collective noun.

No wot so funee? post from me would be complete without a foodie funee (or several). Andrew often asks what’s for tea these days, and I get met with various reactions depending on my answer. Here’s what happened one day this week…

Andrew: “What we having for tea?”

Me: “Casserole Andrew.”

Andrew: “Oh…… Hmm…. I do like roll!” *moves hand around in a gesture the shape of a swiss roll* (I wish I’d got a video of the hand bit – that really made the funee at the time!)

There’s been a new cereal in the cupboard this week – ‘Copters’ by Kelloggs Coco Pops. Andrew of course thinks these are amazing because (a) they look like helicopter blades and (b) they turn the milk chocolatey which he can drink with a straw after he’s eaten the cereals. He sometimes has a bit of trouble remembering the shortened name though (he can say helicopter fine), so a few mornings he has asked for “hocters”.

I’ve mentioned several times before that Andrew (along with his brother) is very active. When he was tearing around the living room crazily the other day, Granny asked him: “Where so you get all your energy from? Can I have some?” His response was: “From a doctor!” Aha, now we know the secret – quick, let’s all go to this doctor for a boost! Of course it might also help that Andrew has access to secret Thunderbird powers. Like when he attaches two small mole cuddly toys to himself, holding them underneath his arms, and these become his super powerful engines that blast him like a rocket around the house. Yes, we’re still mad about Thunderbirds and rockets, no change there.

In fact he now thinks of himself as so clued up on Thunderbirds that he has the right to tell us off when we don’t get it right. One of Grandad’s favourite little sayings at the moment is ‘don’t get X wrong’, which apparently comes from Alan Partridge (who I believe said ‘don’t get Bond wrong’). Grandad uses it in the context of anything that is said wrongly – so he replaces X with whatever it might be. Of course Andrew, being the little sponge that he is, had soaked this one up without us knowing, that is until one evening this week when it became quite clear… The boys have a ‘routine’ for going up to bath, which (surprise, surprise) also includes Thunderbirds! Andrew pretends to be one of the Thunderbird rockets/vehicles and he assigns one to Joel too, then they each blast off upstairs in the manner of the chosen rocket. Except one evening Daddy got it mixed up, and called Joel Thunderbird 1 when he’d been assigned Thunderbird 3. Cue Andrew… “No! Don’t get Thunderbirds wrong!!” And it was said with intonation just like Grandad/Alan. We all creased up with laughter 🙂

And finally for this week, we have a lovely piece of art work from the budding young artist Andrew. After dinner one day he got down from the table whilst Joel was just finishing off his food. We could see that he was drawing something on his easel with chalk. When he stepped away we could see the finished design – ta da! Then I asked what it was. His reply (in a very ‘well don’t you know?’ kind of tone: “a banana!” Of course, I can see it now, a banana, silly me! (?!?)

Banana

Wot So Funee?

Conkers: a fun family day out – #CountryKids

For his birthday, Tom was given a family ticket to the Conkers centre near Ashby de la Zouch. My Grandma had seen an offer online and decided to buy this for Tom for us all to enjoy. We had to use the ticket within 30 days of its purchase, so despite the slightly dodgy looking weather forecast, we decided to go for it this weekend, because there was no guarantee it would be any better next week when we had to use it by. But actually I think we picked a good time of year to go – it was very quiet, there were hardly any cars in the car park when we arrived and left, and this meant we had lots of parts to ourselves or with very few others around; I can imagine it gets packed on a warm sunny day and we’d have had to queue for the train ride, for example.

Conkers Collage 1

We started off by walking out of the main entrance building – the Discovery Centre – and around the edge of the lake that’s just in front of it. As we neared the train station, a train was just pulling up, and as there was no queue, just one family on the platform getting on board, we decided to hop on it there and then – once Andrew has seen a train, it’s very hard to drag him away again anyway. It was a lovely little ride, and the boys enjoyed looking out at the trees, tracks, tunnels and other bits of the park that we could see. This took us to the other side of the park, to the Waterside Centre.

Conkers Collage 4

Right next to this station is a huge adventure playground, with equipment for all ages from toddlers to pre-teens. The boys were off there as soon as they dashed off the train, trying to climb up the tall towers first before coming back down to the climbing frame and swings that were more their size. Andrew likes watching older kids on aerial runways, so although he felt he was too small for the long one here, he was happy to watch me have a go and cheer me on! We stayed here for a good half hour or so, with a few intermittent spots of rain, and other people coming and going during that time.

Conkers Collage 2

Next we went into the Waterside Centre, mainly to use the toilets and nappy change facilities, which were all very quiet too. We spotted a table with a craft activity going on downstairs, so we took a look – they were indeed providing the materials to make your own Gruffalo mask! As Andrew is a big fun of the Gruffalo (I thought there was no such thing?!), we had to stop and make our own, which was just right for his age, with some help from me to read the instructions and direct him with the glue. We also spotted a table next to the craft which had all the culinary dishes mentioned in the Gruffalo book – roasted fox, scrambled snake and Gruffalo crumble – made out of junk modelling stuff and papier mache. They were brilliant, just how you could imagine a Gruffalo meal looking.

Conkers Collage 3

Then it was time to go back outdoors for a bit, and walk along the trails on this side of the park. We walked around another small lake, then into the woods. It looked like a great place to build dens and play hide and seek, particularly in the summer when the trees would have leaves on and cover the area with foliage more than on this winter’s day. The path was suitable for a buggy, though we used the buggy for transporting our bags rather than the boys – they both walked some of the distance, and then one by one they got up onto our backs/shoulders as they got tired. It was just the right length of walk for us with kids whose legs are on the smaller side, though there are many more paths to explore on the other side of the park near the Discovery Centre, which is bigger than this side.

Conkers Collage 6

We came to an opening with a covered outdoor amphitheatre. This is where we had planned to eat our picnic lunch, after I’d tweeted the centre the day before and asked if they had anywhere sheltered to have a picnic. This was a good recommendation – it kept us sheltered from the wind and kept Andrew amused with all the steps up and down that he insisted on doing whilst eating his sandwiches! There was of course plenty of space to sit down; nobody even walked through the amphitheatre whilst we were sat eating, looking terribly British with our outdoor picnic in winter.

Conkers Collage 5

Having done a fair amount of what was on offer over this way, we headed back to the train which took us back to the other side of the park. Again there was just one other family and us on the ride. The rain became more set in as we got off the train and walked around the lake where we had started off the day, but it didn’t really bother us – we were all togged up, and Andrew had a whale of a time jumping in some awesome puddles that came to the top of his wellies in places. One place we could shelter for a bit was a covered viewing tower with a view across the park. The boys enjoyed going up the stairs, and we could hardly drag Andrew away, as he insisted that he wanted to keep going up and down them over and over again.

Conkers Collage 7

We looked on the map that we’d been given at the entrance, and noticed that there was a labyrinth a little further round, which was enough to entice Andrew away from the fascinating steps of the viewing tower. He had done a lot of walking though, and at this point he got into the buggy for a ride around the labyrinth. There was a ‘spot the fairy’ activity as we went round, and Andrew was put in charge of counting up the fairies pinned to the walls. It was quite a long maze; at each turn we wondered how far it would be until the end, but eventually we came to the middle – a fairy house.

Conkers Collage 9

As everyone was getting tired, we headed back to the Discovery Centre for some indoor fun. There is a lot to see and do in there! We learned all about different aspects of the environment in the fantastic hands-on exhibition. The giant model of a leaf was particularly popular with the boys, as we got to stand inside it and look at the cells and press buttons to see the various parts that air, water and sugar pass through – this took me back to A-level biology, this would have been a great place to go to get to grips with plant cell functions. I can imagine that this gets used for school trips in the week, it’s an interesting place to learn and all done very thoughtfully. Of course our boys didn’t learn as much detail as older kids would, but it was accessible on many levels, and they just loved looking at all the interactive displays and getting the sensory experiences.

Conkers Collage 8

In amongst the educational bits, there is an ‘enchanted forest’ soft play area, up above some of the displays in a dimly lit (but in a good, mystical way) environment. It was only suitable for preschoolers upwards, so Andrew went up (with a bit of help from me to begin with to suss it out before he knew it was fine on his own), and Joel stayed down with Daddy, running around the fun exhibits, and finding the toddler play-tree in the cafe. Again, the soft play was all really well thought out, with lots of enclosed rope bridges and bits to climb over as if he was in the tree tops. Considering he had been flagging outside, he managed to regain a fair amount of energy to run off in the soft play – he always has a reserve of energy for soft play it seems.

There was also a Pirate entertainer hanging around in the big foyer, but unfortunately we weren’t there at quite the right time for his shows, though Andrew did get very excited about the balloon sword that he got from the Pirate’s stall. As Joel hadn’t napped all day, we knew that he was getting exhausted with all the running around, and decided to slowly head back to the car. It was hard to drag Andrew away, but the encouragement of a drink and a biscuit was a help, and he’d earned it with all his running around too. There was just enough time to call in at the gift shop and buy the inevitable bouncy ball – the boys’ favourite kind of toy souvenir.

All in all it was a fab day out, with activities indoors and outdoors for children of all ages. It’s well worth the entrance fee (which we of course received as a present). If you live near enough, there is even a yearly members’ ticket, which I think would be worth it if you could go more often than us. We will definitely be back again, and when the boys are a bit older, there will be different things for them to enjoy and get out of it.

Disclaimer: I received no incentive to write this post, and the views expressed are my honest opinions of our day out.

Busy bank holiday weekend

There’s nothing like a good bank holiday weekend, especially when you’re feeling exhausted like me! We’ve enjoyed a lovely three-day weekend; we’ve managed to sort out lots of stuff, spent time with family, and had a rest too. It’s amazing what an extra day to the weekend can do for productivity and rest levels.

It all started on Saturday morning, when my parents arrived with a car-load of flat-pack Ikea wardrobes. For a while now, even before we realised that there’d be another cot to fit in the kids’ room at some point, we’ve wanted to get some more storage for all the bits and bobs of baby/toddler equipment, clothes, toys etc. that have mounted up since Andrew’s arrival. Very kindly, my parents gave Tom for his birthday (back in January) a voucher saying that he could choose a storage solution of his choice for that room. With one thing and another, we’ve not got around to getting it sorted until now, and now that we know it’ll be handy to have it all sorted before number 2’s arrival, that made us more motivated to get things sorted. So Saturday’s task for the men was assembling Ikea furniture – it all went quite smoothly, with only a couple of fixable errors, and no extra pieces that you can’t figure out where they were supposed to go and wonder if it will all fall down by lunchtime. Meanwhile I rested (pregnant mum’s prerogative) and went for a leisurely swim, and Mum looked after Andrew and did some housework whilst he was asleep – though he helped with some sweeping up and ripping up cardboard packaging to put in the bin before nap-time. This did remind me of when we last moved house: I was about the same number of weeks pregnant with Andrew, also feeling sick like I do now, and Tom, my parents and my brother and his girlfriend did all the furniture sorting, unpacking and general cleaning, while I sat there and did nothing (except rest).

Our little helper - Tom is keen to foster carefully this fascination with sweeping that Andrew currently has
More sweeping

The furniture assembly extended into Sunday, but Granny and Grandad got to stay a bit longer at the end of that day and play with Andrew. We were all pretty shattered afterwards, but it’s definitely worth the effort – take a look for yourself…. here are some photos of our very tidy looking children’s room. I was going to take some ‘before’ shots to compare with these ‘after’ ones, but (a) I forgot and (b) I’m not sure I really want to expose our cluttered-ness on here. But the clutter is no more! (Well, it’s there, but hidden behind closed doors with bright and cheery pictures on.)

A wall of wardrobes, decorated with bright pictures
Hanging space for nappy stacker and some clothes, and some little drawers with dividers in - perfect for little socks and hats so they don't all get mixed up in one big draw
Lots of room in boxes that pull out - currently housing things like toys, books and blankets
Lovely big baskets that pull out and you can see into them - perfect for nappy supplies and clothes, sorted into different age ranges

Then today (Monday), Tom and I decided that we would have a more relaxed day, particularly since Andrew is pretty miserable with some mean molars cutting through his gum – naughty teeth! The weather forecast was better for this morning, so we set off once we were ready to Wandlebury Country Park. Of course we were some of the first people there, along with a few keen runners – ‘spot the families with young children’ is an easy game on bank holidays! Andrew was keen to have a wander rather than ride in the buggy, so we had a little adventure together, which involved Andrew dragging Daddy ‘off piste’ into the woods. I stayed on the beaten path for fear of losing part of the buggy over a tree root or inconspicuous branch lying in the way. But then the teeth got the better of him, and Sir Walkalot turned into Sir Grizzliness, so we headed back home, just as the car park was filling up with normal bank holiday visitors and the inevitable rain drops.

If you go down to the woods today....
Oooh you've got the silver shiny thing out again
Come on Mummy, keep up!

Now I’m sat here having another rest (can’t get enough of it these days), while Andrew naps off some of his teething woes (hopefully) and Tom finishes some bits of DIY. Oh and it’s showering outside. A pretty typical British bank holiday it’s been for us then. DIY, family time, and a walk in the country. I guess a picnic in the rain would make it complete – we chickened out of that and lunched at home. What have you been upto over the weekend? We’re very lucky in that Tom gets the day off (and I don’t work Mondays anyway), but I guess not everyone even gets a holiday for May Day, so maybe you or someone in the family has had to work? Whatever you’ve done and wherever you’ve been, I hope it’s been both productive and restful for you too! 🙂