Devon holiday – part 2: Fun on the beach

Last week I wrote about the fun we had at some National Trust properties when we were on holiday in Devon with both sets of the boys’ grandparents. This week I’ll tell the tales of our beach days on holiday.

Our first day at the beach was the Tuesday, and the destination was Looe in Cornwall. Of course we had all the inevitable jokes about needing the loo and so on, much to Tom’s annoyance! The sky was quite overcast, but it was fairly warm and there was no rain forecast, so we’d decided that a beach day was worth a try, and this location was good for the other family members that we were going to meet there.

Looe 1

It wasn’t too far a drive, and when we got there it wasn’t too busy, with plenty of space to find a good spot to put down all the paraphernalia that between us we’d lugged from the car park through the town and onto the beach. Andrew was keen to get playing straight away, and wanted to put his little swim/wet suit on, which was definitely worth having so that he could flit between the sea and the sand without getting his normal clothes wet or getting chilly from having just trunks on.

Looe 2

The first activity of choice was building sand castles with the substantial range of buckets and spades that Grandma and Pop have – some left over from the 1980s-90s and some more recent acquisitions. We even had little sandcastle flags to complete the works of art. Joel also joined in, though probably destroyed more castles than he helped make, and he loved the texture of the sand, playing with it in his hands and feet. It came as quite a shock to him that he couldn’t eat it!

Looe 4

After a little while, Andrew wanted to go in the sea, so down he headed with Pop and his little dinghy. Andrew absolutely loved the sea, which was good to see because last year he wasn’t so interested in it. He was happy to ride in the little boat and then get out and splash in the waves which were just the right height for him. There weren’t too many other people braving the sea, which wasn’t surprising given that it wasn’t amazingly sunny to dry off and warm up when they got out. Joel had a little dip too, and was more keen on it than Andrew had been in previous years.

Looe 3

Other activities that we got up to during the day included eating a picnic and playing frisbee. Andrew was quite skilled at throwing the frisbee….backwards behind him! That caused a few near-miss incidents with the people located near us – thank goodness for the Great British windbreak! At about 4pm we headed home and the two boys fell asleep almost instantly as we got on the road.

 

Nearer the end of our week away, on Friday, we had another beach day out. The weather forecast said overcast in the morning but brightening up later in the day, so we thought we’d believe it and head to the beach. This time we chose a more local beach called Mothecombe, just along the coast from Plymouth heading eastwards. The main reason we went there is that it’s perfect for little ones because it’s on the estuary of a river (The Erne) and is therefore very shallow and sandy. Even at high tide, you have to walk out quite a way before you can swim properly as an adult, so it’s just the right depth of water for little legs to paddle in or get a dinghy in.

MC 1

We arrived at about 11am, and the tide was coming in and almost at its highest. So there wasn’t much beach at that point, but we were the only ones there, so we picked a nice spot and put all our paraphernalia down. The same kinds of activities as at Looe were requested by Andrew and suggested by the adults. This time we’d also brought the body board, another throw back from yester-decade. The waves were just right for giving Andrew a bit of a go on it. At one point he got carried along by a bigger wave than he expected and he came off, but when he resurfaced he was laughing, which was good to see. Joel had a bit of a dip again, and enjoyed sitting in the dinghy, though not so much being sprayed with water by Andrew.

MC 2

Joel’s favourite activity was trying to eat the sand, and he got annoyed whenever a well-meaning adult, who was put in charge of watching him, stopped him! We all also enjoyed flying or looking at the kite, which again had stood the test of time from Daddy’s youth. I even had a dip in the sea, though had to walk out quite far before I could swim properly. I’m not a big fan of swimming in the sea, despite loving swimming in a pool, mainly because I don’t like to think about what’s in it – jellyfish are a particular worry.

MC 3

The tide started to go out from about lunchtime, and gradually the beach got much bigger. At the same time, the clouds started to part and the sun came out in force. We walked over the sand to where the river was much narrower than it had been – at low tide it’s actually possible to walk to the other side as the river is so shallow and narrow. There were some rock pools, and the grandfathers had managed to find a net in the beach shop when they went to get a coffee for everyone after lunch, so Andrew had a go at finding some treasures – a sea snail was his best find, and it lived in a bucket until we went home and it got put back in the sea.

MC 4

When the time came to head home because the tiredness signs were coming thick and fast from the boys, Andrew wasn’t impressed and screamed all the way back up the hill to the car that he wanted to go back down to the beach. We tried to convince him with various reasons why we were going home and that we’d come back another day, but in the end the promise of an ice cream from the grandparents as he’d been such a good boy all day won him over. Again they fell fast asleep almost instantly on the way home – the sign of a great day out!

MC 5

Linking up with the fab Country Kids, as always!
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Adventures in Germany – #CountryKids

Last weekend we were treated to a long weekend away courtesy of my parents as my birthday gift (it was a special number of birthday after all 😉 ) The destination was Germany, to visit mmy friend who I’ve known since we were paired up for the exchange that our schools organised when we were 14.  We now both have families, and we don’t manage to write to each other as often as we once did, but we are still in touch and so are our families, who have visited each other on a few occasions in the past, including for each of our weddings.

Part of the present was for my parents to come with us for extra pairs of hands – I can’t imagine flying on our own with energetic 9 month old and 2 year old boys! So on Thursday, off we all travelled on our Germany adventure. We flew into Cologne/Bonn airport and hired a car to drive to our first location – a sleepy village in the Westerwald, home to my friend and her in-laws, about half way between Cologne and Frankfurt am Main. The area is beautiful, full of trees (Wald = forest), rolling hills and quaint villages. We stayed in the neighbouring village called Friedewald, in the old castle – yes that’s right, actually in the castle, which has been done up fairly recently (in the life span of the building at least) into a hotel. This was the perfect setting for us all.

PicMonkey Collage  3

On Friday (my birthday) we decided to go swimming because my friend, knowing how much we love it, recommended a pool that had very recently opened up in the nearest town – Loewenbad, Hachenburg. The weather was warm, muggy, overcast and occasionally drizzly, so we decided that swimming would be a great activity, especially as there was an outdoor pool as well as an indoor one at the complex. Plus we always take the opportunity to go swimming when we have extra pairs of hands because it can be quite a handful with both the boys, even with two of us adults.

We were very impressed when we arrived, there was something for everyone. There was a plain indoor pool where I could swim some lengths, as well as a gorgeous little padding pool with lovely warm water, just right for Joel. Andrew spotted the water slide outside, so he, Daddy and Grandad went outside to the slide and happily plunged into the cooling water. The little swimmer was slightly shocked by the temperature of the water as he came off the end of the slide, but was soon happy to do it again, and again, and again….! The outdoor pool was amazing: a plain pool as well as the slide and another bit for kids with a seal squirting water and even an outdoor heated paddling pool for babies which Joel enjoyed. The pool was set in a grassy area so there was plenty of space to play outside, sunbathe and eat a picnic if you wanted on a sunny day – the entrance fee was valid for a whole day, and was very reasonable considering you could spend a good day there. We had a birthday lunch planned back at the village, so just spent an hour or so there, going between the various parts of the pool between us. I haven’t been to an outdoor pool for a long time, and I was so glad that we all got to enjoy this outdoor swimming while the weather was warm enough.

PicMonkey Collage  1

Then on Saturday we headed about an hour and a half north to Hemer, the town where my friend’s parents still live, where I stayed for the original school trips before she moved south when she got married. It had been 10 years since I was last there, and the town has undergone quite a lot of regeneration. On Saturday late morning, just after we got there, we walked the short distance down into the town centre and the boys had fun on the new playground in the pedestrian zone. There is a blue ‘band’ with water in that runs down a slope around the playground; this was perfect for walking through and cooling off our hot feet, and both boys loved it. We spent the afternoon in the garden, and my friend’s sisters and their families came for Kaffee und Kuchen (German equivalent of afternoon tea). The kids had great fun playing with the various water toys, which included two water slides, a paddling pool, and some water shooters. We all got very wet once the toddlers realised that it was fun to get the parents and grandparents soaking as well as themselves. But we didn’t mind, it was so good to cool off in the heat.

PicMonkey Collage  2

PicMonkey Collage  6

On Sunday morning we headed across the town to a new attraction, the Sauerland Park. This was perfect for kids of all ages as well as their parents and grandparents for a fun family day out. We started off on the adventure playground, which is called “Zwergengold” (Dwarves’ Gold). It is made to look like a little dwarf town, set in the woods, and gives the impression of a little touch of magic about it. Andrew enjoyed this, and we all had a go on the twin log swing! Then we walked to the viewing tower, and those of us who weren’t afraid of heights or trying to get a tired baby to sleep without distractions climbed to the top to get an impressive view across the town and the Sauerland. Again Andrew was very impressed with this. Next we found an exercise area with outdoor gym equipment. We all had a go on a few things, and the trampolines were a big hit with young and old alike.

PicMonkey Collage  4

A walk further down the hill brought us to a sandy play area with water features. Next to it was a cafe so we bought some nice cool drinks and the adults sat and had a rest while Andrew played in the sand and Joel was just waking up from his nap. Andrew also spotted a carousel with various vehicles on it a bit further down the hill near the entrance/exit, so after playing in the sand we headed down there and he chose which vehicle he wanted to sit on – of course it was the fire engine! (Well actually he wanted to go on the tractor but another little boy had beat him to it!) Soon it was time to leave and get home for lunch with the extended family again so we could make our flight in the afternoon. As we walked to the exit there was a big paddling pool being filled with water, so we took our shoes off and had a quick splash through it on our way out – Andrew was particularly interested by the little boy who was riding his bike through the pool!

PicMonkey Collage  5

All in all we had an amazing time and thoroughly enjoyed our time in Germany. The weather was warm and mostly sunny which meant we had plenty of opportunity to get outside with the boys and the family we went to visit.

Next weekend we’re off to Devon to see Grandma and Pop – handy having the boys’ other grandparents living near the seaside – so I’m sure I’ll be back with more outdoor tales after that 🙂

Linking up with the amazing Country Kids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Water balloons – #CountryKids

As the hot weather has continued, I’ve been trying to think of ways to have fun outdoors and stay cool. In the mornings we’ve mainly been going to indoor places to stay out of the sun at the hottest part of the day, coming home for lunch and a nap, then going outdoors about 4pm onwards when the sun is less directly blazing down on us. Our garden (or the communal garden of our block of flats that nobody else ever uses) is perfect in the later afternoon because it’s mostly in the shade of the building. The temperature has been perfect for getting the paddling pool out there in the afternoon.

Apart from the activities I wrote about in last week’s Country Kids post (‘painting’ with water on paving stones, playing with bath toys in the paddling pool), I came up with another fun game involving water. I remember having water balloon ‘fights’ when I was little, and thought that Andrew would love it too. He finds it hilarious when balloons filled with air pop, so I knew he would find this just as fun if not more so because he loves playing with water too. And we all need to be sprayed with cool water in this heat!

Preparations
Preparations

So when we were in town this week, we popped into Poundland and bought a bumper pack of balloons for, of course, one whole pound. Whilst the boys were napping, I started to fill the balloons with water, enough of them to fill the washing up bowl in the kitchen sink. I put the opening of the balloon over the end of the tap and slowly turned the tap on just a little. As these were only cheap balloons, I didn’t want to drench the kitchen even though I wouldn’t complain about an early drenching myself!

balloons 2 Collage

Once both boys were awake, I lowered the washing up bowl full of balloons out the window onto the grass (we live on the ground floor) and then we headed out into the garden ourselves.  Andrew then decided to transfer all the balloons very carefully into the paddling pool where I’d sat Joel down. We played with them there for a while before I picked one up and threw it. I was surprised that it hadn’t occurred to Andrew to do this yet, but once he’d seen me do it and witnessed the pop and splash moment, there was no stopping him. He absolutely loved it, and it was quite an effort to persuade him to leave a couple for when Daddy came home a bit later, as I was sure he would enjoy the cooling off too 😉

balloons 3 Collage
Andrew decided he’d rather not have a nappy or pants on!

The balloons worked perfectly, just what I was hoping for, so I thought I’d share it on here and link up with Country Kids, the amazing outdoor fun linky by Fiona at Coombe Mill. Take a look, there are some great ideas! And just a note to say that I won’t be linking up next week as we’ll be away on the boys’ first trip abroad, to celebrate my (special) birthday. But I’ll be back the following week, no doubt with tales of our German adventures. See you then….

balloons 4 Collage

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

 

 

Number and letter fun in the sun – #CountryKids

With all this glorious sunshine, it’s not been at all difficult to entertain two little ones who love being outside. It’s been lovely just to spend time in the garden, and to go to our favourite parks and open spaces.

The paddling pool has been a big hit with both boys, though I can’t believe how small it looks to me now – the last time we had it out we only had an 18/19 month old as opposed to a nearly 2.5 year old and an 8 month old taking up their space in it. With some bath toys in it, this provided hours of fun throughout the week, starting at the weekend when Daddy was around; we’ve had it out both in the garden and on the balcony.

Sun fun 1 Collage

Sun fun 2 Collage

Sun fun 4 Collage

We’ve also had some fun with numbers and letters this sunny week. Andrew is very into them, and he enjoys saying them out loud whenever he sees them written somewhere. One afternoon I took a beaker of water and a paint brush outside and told him that we were going to do some painting. He was excited, and was intrigued to watch me ‘painting’ with water on the bricks of the drive; he then had a go himself, and was fascinated to watch our artwork disappear (pretty quickly in this heat!). We painted a few things on the bricks that were warm in the sun, but his favourite was of course the letters. I heard of this idea a while ago, I think when talking to a friend at a group, but I can’t actually remember who, when or where now. But it provided some cheap and cheerful fun on a sunny day.

Sun fun 3 Collage
The photos don’t seem to have come out as well as I’d hoped, but I think you can get the idea

One morning we popped up to Anglesey Abbey, our local National Trust property. I blogged about this for Country Kids earlier in the year when it was much colder and Andrew went everywhere with his yellow coat on. Since that time, Andrew has made a new game which we have to play whenever we go, he won’t let me get away without it! There is a path that leads through a part of the gardens with lots of shrubs in, and for each specifies/variety there is a little plaque with a number on next to the plant. I presume there must be some guide book that you can take out with you which tells you what each number is, though we’ve never done that. Andrew’s game is to ride along the path on his bike and shout out all the numbers that he spots on his way. Sometimes they are obvious, and others are hidden under leaves and harder to spot. He would happily go up and down this path all day if he could. Here is (quite a long) video of him playing this fun game!

Sun fun 5 Collage
There is also a new activity board near the water mill that tells you all about how flour is milled there. Andrew is fascinated by the wheels that you can spin around on it! One of the wheels (the far right) is a pizza – he particularly likes that one 😉

So that was our week of outdoor fun in the sun. Let’s hope the good weather continues!

Linking up with the fantastic linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog – Country Kids
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

Baby crawl

I’m trying to make sure that Joel goes swimming as often as possible. As I myself was a little water baby and have loved swimming for as long as I can remember, it means a lot to me to take my own babies swimming and get them confident in water. When Andrew was Joel’s age, we went swimming once a week together, sometimes more often. I know that second (and third/fourth etc.) children will never get the same experience as the first, and generally I accept that because I can see the good points of being the second as well as the bad. But if there’s one thing that gets to me, it’s not being able to take both boys swimming on my own.

We go as often as we can as a family as well as with grandparents whenever we’re with them, which seems to have worked out at once every 2-3 weeks since Joel was 8 weeks old. So I was particularly happy when the boys naps/feeds/meals conspired in our favour on Sunday afternoon and meant that we had a time to go swimming. Plus it was drizzling so we thought swimming was better than going for a walk anyway.

Now Joel is desperate to crawl. He can see his big brother (an advantage of being a second child) and clearly wants to follow him. So he has figured out how to go backwards and turn around on the spot and generally he lies on his front flapping his arms and legs A LOT! If I put him down on the floor on his back, he immediately rolls onto his tummy and starts his attempts to move (and conquer the world 🙂 ) Watch this video if you want to see some attempts to crawl on land, including leg kicks and arm flaps that would serve him well in a swimming pool, especially towards the end of the video.

We’ve been joking recently that he looks like he’s swimming on land, so it’s lovely to watch how he reacts in water when he’s on his tummy (again he doesn’t really like being on his back, just like on land). He does the same crawling action, flapping his arms and legs, which of course looks so good in water – baby crawl! In fact he looked more like an adult swimmer than his big brother who, as usual, was busy flitting between playing with different toys and being upright in the water a lot of the time rather than just swimming back and forth on his front.

Although it’s been a few weeks since our last swim, I was so pleased that both boys took to the water just like ducks, happy to splash and play in the pool. I think the most important point about swimming at this age is just to have fun and get used to the water, which we seem to be achieving, so that makes me happy too. Hopefully it won’t be long before we go again, probably the weekend after next, and Joel can show us some more baby crawl action!

We still don't have any photos of Joel swimming because we always go in the pool all together. But here is my artist's impression of what he looks like in the water ;)
We still don’t have any photos of Joel swimming because we always go in the pool all together. But here is my artist’s impression of what he looks like in the water 😉

The gift of a baby – Joel’s dedication

On Sunday we had a dedication for Joel during the church service that we usually go to. It is traditional in the Church of England to baptise babies in what is often called a ‘Christening’; this involves sprinkling them with water, and the parents of the baby declare their own faith and commitment to Jesus, and make promises to God on behalf of the baby. In other denominations, for example the Baptist Church, it is not traditional to baptise babies, but rather adults, and this usually involves them standing in a pool of water and being fully immersed and brought back out of the water, just as baptism used to be done in Biblical times.

Although the church we go to each week is part of the Church of England, it is not prescriptive in requiring babies to be baptised – as parents we have a choice whether to have them baptised or dedicated. Dedication does not involve water; instead it is an opportunity for us to publicly thank God for the gift of Joel, and pray for him as he grows up, that he might come to know and love Jesus for himself like we do, then if he chooses, he can be baptised as an adult.

Joel was a very smiley and happy boy for most of the day.
Joel was a very smiley and happy boy for most of the day.

Tom and I thought and prayed for a long time both before and after Andrew was born as to whether we wanted our child(ren) to be baptised or dedicated. Some of our thought processes were based on what we had experienced as babies and adults. I was dedicated as a baby and made my own decision to be baptised as a teenager; Tom was baptised as a baby and went on to be confirmed in the Church of England as an adult. Both my adult baptism and Tom’s confirmation were public declarations of our faith once we were old enough to decide for ourselves what we believe.

We also talked with our vicar, who explained some of the reasoning based on what the Bible says for baptising babies or adults. The theological arguments that have been made for and against infant baptism and adult baptism are quite complicated, and I won’t go into them all here – if you’re interested you can read all about them on Wikipedia. Essentially it boils down to what exactly we believe the meaning of baptism is. One way of looking at baptism is as a New Testament (and right up to the present day) Christian parallel to the Old Testament Jewish tradition of circumcision, in other words a way of welcoming babies into a faith community, thanking God for their safe arrival. There are various verses in the Bible, such as in the Book of Acts (chapter 2, verses 38-39; chapter 16, verses 14-15; chapter 18, verse 8), that talk of whole households (presumably including children) being baptised or that the promise of forgiveness through baptism is for everyone including children. Another way of looking at baptism is as an action of repentance, admitting that we have done wrong things, saying sorry for them, receiving God’s forgiveness by his grace, and also as a public statement of faith or belief in Jesus – of course babies are not old enough to understand and do these things on their own. There are various verses in the Bible that suggest this is what baptism means (e.g. Luke chapter 3, verse 3; Mark chapter 1, verse 4; Acts chapter 13, verse 24; Acts chapter 19, verse 4). Whichever way we look at it, the Bible teaches that there is only one baptism for each person, so it is either as a baby or as an adult, not both.

Overall, taking into account our own experiences and what we thought and prayed about having looked at the Bible, we felt like baptism made more sense to us if you actively choose to do it as an adult rather than if you passively have it done on your behalf as a baby. That is not to say that we think infant baptism is wrong – every parent has a choice on this, and this is just what we chose to do.

Two smart boys - each a gift from God.
Two smart boys – each a gift from God.

As well as us parents, Joel also has two Godparents, who have committed to praying for him and being available as mentors for things that might crop up in his spiritual journey that he’d rather talk to someone other than us about; they also stood up with us at the front of church on Sunday. Andrew was also dedicated in the same way (before I started blogging, so I didn’t write about it), and shares the same Godparents.

We had a lovely day celebrating the gift of Joel with family and friends. We missed a few people who couldn’t travel due to the ridiculous weather – who would have thought that organising this event at the end of March would mean there would be travel problems due to snow! After the church service we had a lunch at one of the colleges in the centre of Cambridge to continue the celebrations. Both boys enjoyed having lots of people there to wrap around their fingers with cuteness.

Rainbow cake with rainbow sponge
Rainbow cake with rainbow sponge

A special mention must go to the cake…. Although I would have loved to make it myself, I decided that I didn’t want the stress of it having to be finished for Sunday morning, not knowing in advance how much Joel would want to feed on the days running up to the day itself. And I’m glad I did decide this because things have been quite busy this week with one thing and another, and it was Tom’s turn to be ill. So I asked Andrew’s old childminder if she could do it – she would often have amazing-looking cakes ready for family and friends when I used to drop him off, and she’s now applying to get all the paperwork in place to make a proper little business out of it. She didn’t disappoint with this beautiful rainbow design with rainbow sponge inside 🙂 The idea of a rainbow was mine, and she asked if we wanted rainbow sponge too.

Home-made playdough

When I bought a bumper pack of child-friendly cutters in different animal and geometric shapes, this reminded me that I really must get around to something that has been on my to-do list for a while: make some playdough! Andrew has recently got into this, as it’s been out at a play group we go to and at his children’s church group on a Sunday. I’d heard that making your own is pretty easy and works out far cheaper than the branded stuff you can buy.

From a quick google search I found that there were various recipes out there, all slightly different, some involving heating up the ingredients and others not, and some involving cream of tartar and others not. I’d heard that the cream of tartar gives it a more stretchy, doughy texture, so I was keen to add that. The recipe I eventually decided on was from the Mumsnet website, because it included cream of tartar and the quantities of flour and water seemed about average in size compared to the other top hits on google. Despite this reasoning, the quantities ended up making far more than I thought! Not that this is a problem, because I’m sure that over time bits will get thrown away or chewed or stuck to the bottom of chairs etc. But I can definitely see why this works out much cheaper than the diddy little pots you can buy in shops for some extortionate price.

All the ingredients mixed in a pan, heating up over a medium heat level
Kneading the dough on a board (with greaseproof paper) just out of the pan. Watch out, it's still hot for a while, but soon cools down once out.
Stored in an ice cream tub (2 litres - this amount of ingredients turned out to produce much more dough than I thought it would!)

It was very easy to make, though I did gain a slight injury in that my arm muscles were tested to the limit and ached for a while afterwards, because as the dough gets stiffer in the pan, it gets extremely hard to stir. At that point you take it out of the pan and knead until it forms a stiff dough. I’m happy with the consistency and also the colour, which did need half a bottle of red food colouring to get it that deep. I read somewhere in my googling (though can’t find the link now!) that gel colouring gets deeper colours than liquid food colouring, so I might try that another time. To make the dough smell nice, I added some almond essence, so it’s a bit like playing with (non-edible) marzipan! I’ve seen sites that suggest adding things like glitter too, which I might try in future.

Here are some pictures showing how much fun Andrew has playing with his playdough 🙂

Look Mummy, it's a HEART! Heart, heart, heart!
Hmmmm, now what shall I make with this....?
Roll it into a ball, roll, roll....
Oooooh look I made a ball of playdough! Isn't it lovely Mummy?!

Pregnancy diary: week 35 – birth plan

As yesterday was my last day at work (I’ll come back to that in a mo….), all of a sudden giving birth seems like a much more imminent event! So I thought it was about time that I write my ‘birth plan’. I thought I’d saved a copy of my birth plan for Andrew’s birth, but I have a feeling I didn’t back it up to the server (unusual for me, Little Miss Paranoid Doer of Back-ups) and annoyingly my laptop hard-drive died a few days after Andrew was born. The birth plan must be forever lost in an irretrievable gobble-ti-gook of 1s and 0s. But nevermind. I managed to find a great resource on the NHS choices website, which runs through the various points you might like to include in a birth plan. It even lets you save an online version of a birth plan that you create by ticking various multiple choice option boxes and then printing off a PDF, but I found this a little restrictive and preferred to write my own using ideas from the website.

Not much to say this week, other than it's a bump!

I’m not a massive fan of the word ‘plan’ in this context, because I don’t think labour and delivery are really things that you can ‘plan’ in the sense that I normally plan things (like what I’m doing next Monday morning at 10am, or when we will go on holiday next year, or what we’ll eat for dinner tonight, for example). Yes I have an image of what would be an ‘ideal’ birth, and actually I came pretty close to this with Andrew (lose the vomiting after the syntocinon injection and it would have been perfect), but I’m not so naive to think that there is no possibility of complications that might cause my ‘ideal’ birth to fly out the maternity hospital window. I’m optimistic that, given previous experience, the birth will go smoothly, but realistic that I have no control over the fact that it might not.

I remember when I came to write my birth plan for having Andrew that I didn’t know where to start. Although I had some ideas about what I wanted and didn’t want, I also had no idea how I would react to and cope with the pain once I was in labour, having never experienced anything like it before. So most of my points were couched in a ‘I’d like it to be as natural as possible but if I scream for drugs then please give them to me’ kind of tone. This time, of course, I know what it’s like, so I found it easier to write down what I hope for, complications and long duration notwithstanding.

This sets the scene for my birth plan, which I’ve set out below. I will print this out and keep it with my maternity notes, so that whichever midwife gets the job of helping us through labour will see it when she looks at my notes – this worked well last time, and she was keen to read what I’d written before doing much else with me. I’ve probably forgotten some important points, so if you think of anything I might like to mention, I’m all ears. Next week I have another midwife appointment, so I might have chance to go through it with her too, particularly as she’s coming to look at the flat in case of home birth necessity!

Ruth Cumming’s birth plan

This is not so much of a ‘plan’, because I’m not sure you can really ‘plan’ labour and birth, but rather it’s a list of things that I would like and not like to happen, if at all possible.

Location

My preferred place of birth is in the Rosie Birth Centre, because I had my son at the former MLBU, and I liked the relaxed atmosphere and received excellent care from the midwives, who helped me but did not take over.

However, if baby comes even faster than my son did (which was pretty fast), I may decide that I’d rather stay at home, because I’d rather not risk being in advanced labour in the car – I’d rather have a ‘home birth’ than a ‘car birth’!

Of course if there are complications, I understand that going up to the delivery unit in the main Rosie hospital would be necessary.

My birth partner is Tom, my husband, and I would like him with me at all times during labour, no matter what happens.

Labour and delivery

I would like to be in a birth pool during active labour (another reason for choosing the Birth Centre); this helped me a lot for my first labour.

If possible I would like to deliver the baby in the water. Last time the midwife could tell that being in the water was relaxing me too much and she was concerned that I wasn’t pushing as hard as I could during the final stage in there, so she suggested I got out for delivery. She was right, because I gave birth within minutes of getting out, as I pushed much harder ‘on land’. If this happens again, I’m not against getting out of the water if necessary, but would rather have a water birth if possible.

Last time I used a birthing stool for the final pushes – this worked well and I would like it again if ‘on land’.

I am happy for baby’s heartbeat to be monitored like it was last time – with a detached probe device every now and then, i.e. I’m not constantly hooked up to a machine so I can move around freely.

I will move around during labour before the pool is ready, and get into positions that I find most comfortable at each point. This could include getting on all fours (possibly on the bed) and walking around. But I hope to spend most of the time in the pool.

I hope to deliver in the water, squatting or upright in some other way, or if I’m on land, squatting on a birthing stool worked well last time. I do not want to be on my back, lying down or completely horizontal in any way.

If I am in the water for delivery, I would like to pick baby up myself from the water, and sit there skin to skin for a while until I feel I’d like to get out.

If I am on land for delivery, baby should be delivered straight onto my tummy, without being cleaned, so that we can have skin to skin time. This worked well for my son, and he latched on for a breastfeed almost straight away. I would like this to happen again if possible.

I would like the midwife to cut the cord (Tom is not particularly keen to do this).

I do not mind if there are trainee midwives in the room.

Possible drugs/interventions

For pain relief, I would like to try and use just natural methodsbreathing, movements, and the water of the pool. This worked for my first labour and I didn’t need any drugs.

However, if labour goes on for a lot longer than my first labour, I may decide on other pain relief methods. Gas and air would be my first choice. I didn’t find a TENS machine helpful last time, so I won’t try it again.

I would prefer not to have an epidural, but I can see that if I’ve been in pain for several hours and I’m exhausted, that this would be something I would consider and would want to be given if I decided on having it.

I had a 2nd degree tear with my son, so I’m prepared that this might happen again. I’d rather not have an episiotomy if at all possible, but would consider it if the midwife thinks it is necessary if baby was in trouble.

I would rather not have an assisted delivery with forceps or ventuose. But if baby was in trouble and therefore it was advisable to have these interventions, I would consider them.

After my son was born I opted to have the syntocinon injection, but in a reaction to this drug I vomited several times and felt nauseous for about 6 hours after the birth. I would rather not have the syntocinon injection this time, but if the midwife thinks it is necessary because I am bleeding a lot (and I know I’ve had a slightly low platelet count that might not help the situation), I am prepared to have the injection. I would like Tom to be able to stay for as long as possible after the birth this time if I am feeling sick.

I would like my baby to have the vitamin K injection or oral drops.

Breastfeeding

I am going to breastfeed and this is extremely important to me. I struggled with breastfeeding my son in the early weeks, but eventually got on track with it and have continued to feed him until now – I plan to tandem breastfeed if he still wants to continue after the baby’s birth.

So I would like my baby to stay close to me at all times and not be swaddled – I would like to remain in skin to skin contact for several hours after the birth, so that baby can feed off and on whilst lying on me.

If complications arise and I need to be separated from him/her, I would like Tom to be able to have skin to skin with baby whilst I am out of action. I would like baby to be brought to me as soon as possible if we are separated, and have help with positioning baby on me for feeding if I am in pain from a difficult delivery (e.g. c-section).

Too many to choose from: my favourite swimming memory

Recently I saw a competition advertised on BrtiMums (via Twitter) which I thought would be easy enough to enter. It’s called the Joy of Swimming Competition, sponsored by British Gas, and this post is my entry for it. To be in with a chance of winning a Merlin family pass, which gives year-long entry to theme parks and zoos around the UK, or £250 to spend in JJB Sports (I would easily spend that on swimming-related gear for the family), all I have to do is post on my blog about my favourite swimming memory. So I set about writing a quick post (it has to be at least 100 words, but that’s no problem for Little Miss Wordy here!) But it turned out to be harder than I thought: in fact I have so many swimming memories because swimming has been and still is such a big part of my life, that it’s so hard to choose. In the end I chickened out, and decided to write about a selection of a few favourite swimming memories. I wrote about this fairly recently on the blog, so you may get a feeling of deja vu in certain parts.

From one generation..... (me swimming at Bedworth pool aged about 2)

Although we have photos of me (as above) swimming as a baby/toddler, of course I don’t remember that far back personally. I’d say my earliest actual memories of swimming were of lessons at Ernesford Grange swimming pool in Coventry when I was aged somewhere between about 4 and 7. I remember enjoying myself so much when I was at swimming lessons. I wasn’t much good at any other sports at school and was always the last to be picked for a team, but swimming I could do, and do well. It was also great to work towards badges, and I enjoyed getting stronger in the water, so I could swim longer distances and learn new skills. I found it great fun to do things like picking up bricks from the bottom of the deep end, tread water for a while (with or without 1 or 2 hands in the air!), or do some skulling (lying on my back. legs still, just pulling through the water with circular movements of the hands). I particularly remember the teacher I had for most of my lessons – the infamous Mrs Leigh. She was lovely really, but did have a bit of a reputation for being slightly scary with her big booming voice and concentration on getting you to swim to your potential – not one to stand any messing around in the ranks!

Moving on to later-primary-school age, I have fond memories of my time as a member of the City of Coventry swim squad. It was there that I learned all about good stroke technique, and got to improve my speed and stamina swimming. The first Friday of every month we had time trials, where we had to swim one 25m length of each stroke (front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke and butterfly), and we were timed doing them. It was a challenge to see if I could beat my personal best and improve my times over the months and years – that was great fun. I also enjoyed the galas we took part in against other squads, both as individual swimmers and relay teams. Most of these were local, usually based at the pool in Nuneaton, but I particularly remember a tour we went on to Devon, where we swam in galas against teams down there in the evenings, and got to visit nice places in the day. Little did I know that I’d end up marrying someone who lived down there! (We met years later and not through anything swimming-related though.)

Apart from badges and competitive swimming, I’ve always loved swimming just for fun too. Family holidays in France always included a lovely blue outdoor pool – I wouldn’t let Mum book a campsite without one! I would spend most of the afternoon and early evening every day in there, just swimming about and playing games with family or friends that I made. I reckon that’s something that helped my French at a young age – one year I made friends with a couple of French girls my age in the pool, and we managed to communicate between us enough to play games in the water.

I’ve continued to swim regularly into adulthood. I particularly enjoyed swimming in the University of Nottingham swimming club as an undergraduate student, and more recently swimming was a real benefit for me during pregnancy – the feeling of weightlessness and still being able to exercise was amazing, especially towards the end when I felt so big!

....to the next generation (Andrew, aged around 9 months, and I swimming at Abbey pool)

Of course I can’t finish this post about swimming memories without including the next generation of swimming fun! I remember, like it was yesterday, taking Andrew swimming for the first time. It was quite an effort to get everything together and go at just the right time between feeds (naps weren’t his strong point so we weren’t too restricted by that), but it was all worth it when we got there. Back in those days I could lay him down on the fold-down changing table in the cubicle, knowing that he wouldn’t go anywhere. I got changed first, so he wouldn’t get cold waiting for me, and then got him into his little trunks. He was just about big enough by then to fit in the smallest size of Boots brand swim nappies which were on offer at the time so worked out the cheapest, and I’d bought a cool little pair of swimming shorts for him that were a bit big for his non-existent bottom (now he’s walking that has definitely muscled up!) Then I wrapped him in a towel, and, after I quickly got into my swim costume myself, took on the actually very difficult task of carrying a tiny baby, a rucksack, a nappy change bag, my handbag and a towel to the locker. That was nothing compared to juggling them all whilst trying to put the coin in the locker. We survived it though, and then headed through to the pool.

It was fairly busy in the small pool, but there was still plenty of room to get in gently down the shallow steps at the side. I introduced him to the water slowly, by sitting down on a step, holding him in one arm and using the other arm to pour water gently onto his skin with a cupped hand. After a few minutes of that, I eased us down into the water a bit more, so that he was completely immersed except for his head. He wasn’t at all phased by it, and was very happy for me to walk around and pull him through the water with me. Of course I was supporting him a lot, especially his head which was still floppy then. He was fascinated by everything that was going on – all the other boys and girls, the lifeguards walking round in bright yellow t-shirts, and the brightly-coloured bath toys like ducks and octopuses that were floating around. Incidentally, the staff at the pool have written a different name on each toy – so there’s Vinny the duck, Alice the octopus and Olly the bear etc. Not that he was really old enough to do much with these himself, but his little eyes and ears were clearly soaking it all up like a sponge. As he was so at ease in the water, I even tried splashing some water around him, and he loved that. It was just about the time when he was starting to smile, and I got lots of smiles and splashing that day. We only stayed in for about 15 minutes, because I didn’t want to risk him getting too cold, though the pool always feels lovely and warm to me, but you can’t tell what a baby’s perception of it is. As we got out, I wrapped him up in the towel again, and then we headed back to the changing cubicles to get dry and dressed. This time I sorted him first, as I can cope with the temperature and still being in a wet costume for a while. He fell asleep on the way home and napped well that afternoon. I soon discovered that swimming was a way to wear him out and guarantee a good nap.

So there we go, a selection of my swimming memories. I’m looking forward to adding many more with Andrew over the years, as that part of our swimming story has only just begun.