Saturday, 11 June 2016

Half Term Round Up!

Half term bought some much needed rest and relaxation round here. I was initially disappointed in the weather, the wet and windy chilly days were not what I had in mind when I planned picnics in the parks and woodland walks! However, it did make for a more relaxing week, there was lots of 'wearing our pyjamas until lunchtime' and 'board games' and 'films with popcorn', 'indoor picnics on a rug' and no rushing out and about. More and more, Pip and Bean seem to relish mornings where we don't have to rush out the door, they are always making pacts with each other like 'we will not leave our bedroom today because we are pretending we're on a plane.' The pacts never last but they have fun creating them.

We did brave the rain on Bank Holiday Monday and headed out early to Greenwich for breakfast where the children ate croissants the size of their own heads! Bean was super excited that we let him choose his own breakfast from the bakery and eat it in the park- he found this very novel!

 
 
 

To embrace the rain we did some making and flapjack baking. (The flapjack disappeared too quickly before I could snap a photo!) We made some cute smily rain-clouds using baking paper with melted crayons for the rain drops. The kids had a LOT of fun sharpening crayons and then ironing them until they melted. I think they thought I'd lost my marbles when I suggested it, they couldn't quite believe I was letting them melt crayons!
 




 The sun shone finally at the weekend for my cousin's wedding, which was a delight. The kids had been beyond excited about their first proper wedding. Pip had been a bridesmaid before but she wasn't even two then so remembers very little. They all got new little outfits and Pip spent the week in the run up to the wedding checking on her outfit everyday! They all managed to sit still during the service (thankfully) and enjoyed the meal with goodies that my cousin's new wife had carefully put together. That along with the sweetie stall and the pampering station in  the girl's toilets - Pip was in her element!  Their only gripe was that it took soooooo long to get to the best bit of the day- the cake and the dancing! But it was a really special day and I was happy they had a great time too. Lots of happy memories!







 

The half term already seems like an age away and Bean, particularly is finding it a struggle to get up every morning, I think he really needs another holiday! I forget that he is still only in reception and has only just completed a year at school. 
 
It's only two weeks until I finish work and the summer holidays are literally zooming round the corner which also means a certain little someone will soon be making their arrival! I feel like there is so much to do in such a short space of time! 

Friday, 3 June 2016

A letter to the Lady who was apologising for her 5 children.............



I saw you in the lift on my way back from the doctors. You could not have known my story or why I was there and you won't remember me but you have had a profound impact that I will remember forever. Your 5 children were lovely. Smiley and fun and free spirited, but it didn't stop the other mother's comments. They were not meant to be hurtful and goodness knows you probably get questions like those all the time. I wondered how bored you were of hearing 'you've got your hands full!' or whether it was common for total strangers to ask you whether 'they were all planned so close together.' I noticed how uncomfortable you became when your youngest pressed the wrong button and the lift became crowded. It was as if you felt the situation was somehow worsened by you having five children. And believe me, it wasn't. Had my three children (a relatively normal amount by today's standards) been with me, they would have also pressed the buttons and they would have also giggled to each other and acted just as yours did, with totally normal childlike behaviour.

But I know how you may feel that way because that was once me. When I found out that we were expecting twins and with already having three children, I was terrified of what people would think of me and my FIVE children. I felt like I'd have to ensure I had the world's best behaved children because otherwise everyone would say 'it's because she has 5, she really can't cope you know!" Or "oooh THAT family, you know the one with 5 children?!' 

Then when, unfortunately, we found out that the plan was just for it to be a singleton, I found some people responded with relief and thought 'thank goodness we were only going to have 4 as opposed to not being able to cope with 5.' I must admit, I was concerned how we were going to cope with 5 children and I'm still anxious at how we'll cope with 4 but I had just been coming round to the idea and so losing one wasn't a relief, it was heartbreaking. I felt like I somehow wasn't special enough to have twins or that my body wasn't clever enough to look after twins. I was worried that I'd somehow caused there to be only one because I was overly concerned with how people would view us if we had five children.

There was a time when having a big family was normal and considered a blessing. But now I feel that if you have more than 2 children, you're considered slightly odd. People wonder why you'd want four, surely that would limit your choice of holidays? Surely that would inhibit your free time? How will you be able to pursue your own hobbies and career? It seems that two is the perfect lifestyle choice, the perfect balance for normal human beings to be able to retain a sense of their own identities. Two is the balance of having children without it not quite taking over your life but somehow for me, that seems to go entirely against the whole idea of having children in the first place. Surely, they're meant to change your life, surely having children is meant to teach you about how to self sacrifice and put someone else's needs before your own? Children do change you. It’s unavoidable and inevitable.

 As soon as I had our eldest nearly 8 years ago, I knew everything would change. I am still learning to juggle more balls than I can think of in order to work, earn and be a hands-on parent. Over the last 8 years, it's been a constant push and pull of being a parent and a mother, of working and not working, the difficult dynamic between those-who-have-children and those-who-don’t and now it seems that we're stepping into a new unknown. Now we are pitched as a 'big' family and I am realising, just like the lady in the lift, that our new conflict is between those who have the 'sensible' amount of children and those who opt for four or more.

We saw some old acquaintances in a restaurant the other day and upon hearing that we were expecting our fourth they said 'Wow - you don't have to keep going you know, you are allowed to stop!' As I humoured them and laughed along, it was then that I realised I'm going to have to toughen up. I must not let every comment I hear about our family affect me. I must embrace having a large family and not feel daunted by it, because it seems that I may be the only one that is going to! The current parent climate does not seem tolerant to families of six or more.

But although I am daunted, I'm also excited. For having children has already taught me so much. I have learned to be more tolerant, more patient (although still learning on that one) and to put other people’s needs before my own. Of course, I'm worried that we won't be able to take them abroad or fix our house up or give them a variety of life experiences. I am hoping that the benefit of having siblings will somehow outweigh that in the end.

I do wonder what our lives would have been like if we had only had two children. I imagine the luxurious holidays I could never afford with a family of six, or the adventurous ones that are not possible with small children. Yet, I am realising that there is just as much fun in the things we can do, the picnics and the make believe play and the swimming in streams (we haven't actually done this yet but it's on my family bucket list!)

The truth about parenting is that you can’t fake it, and I'm going to make it my mission to ensure that we don't wind up too frazzled, that we embrace the chaos and enjoy every little bit of a life as a family of six.

And so, lovely lady in the lift with your wonderful 5 children - thank you for allowing me a glimpse into your life and the fun that a large family can bring and thank you for giving me the standard  answer for those 'unhelpful' comments that will undoubtedly come our way over the next few years. 'Yes, we have our hands full but we're enjoying every minute!'


 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Growing our First Vegetable Garden.

It feels like we haven't made even a dent in the things that we'd like to do to our house. The list is so extensive that I switch between being excited about all the pretty things we can do to this place and overwhelmed that I might reach 50 before it's all done!

We have made some headway in the garden however, although that's not without its own long list of things to do too. (Does it sound so very old to say that I have lawn envy?! Our lawn is full of tree roots and it's a lot more weed than it is green grass. Our neighbours, on the other hand have a luscious green garden that I keep staring at!) Anyway, it's taken a fair few months but we've finally finished our vegetable patch! It's hardly of the 'Good Life' standard but it's something we wanted for the children when we were dreaming of a bigger garden. Here's what the patch of garden looked like when we first moved in.
 
 
 
It took a few weekends of clearing before we had a nice big space. We started off planting some raspberries, blueberries and rhubarb along with potatoes in sacks but then it became too wet to do much else.
 
 
 
 
Until we really set to it over the last couple of weekends and spent full days in the garden to sort it all out. It's been a lovely couple of gardening weeks though, building the vegetable beds, sourcing the right kind of veg to grow in a short raised bed and finally planting this weekend. It did seem perfect to be planting in May, although I think we may have left some things a little late. But May feels like a month of growth, of flowers and freshness; it's a month of welcomed warmth and new life. There seems to be something a little more optimistic about May that makes me fully hopeful we might actually grow something! May has so far, been a month of weekends in gardens and planting and smiling at the passing butterflies and bumbling bees. 






We made little wooden spoon signs to label our veg for fear of forgetting what it was or maybe I'm a little worried that we won't actually grow anything (we're not exactly green-fingered) and won't know what they are meant to resemble!  I am hoping their wooden spoon signs withstand the rain as we painted them using ceramic paints. There were some interesting takes on what some of our veg looked like, such as the beetroot!

 






And here are the proud owners of their vegetable patches. Bean has got beans (obviously, he grew these at school) tomatoes and strawberries, Pip is growing carrots, broccoli and runner beans. Squidge has got all the salad stuff in her box - peppers and salad and beetroot. Needless to say, they are their competitive selves and Bean is quite proud that his strawberries and potatoes are flourishing nicely!

Now there is just the rest of the garden to conquer (we have insane weeds and brambles that are pulled out one weekend and then they re-grow by the next!) Time to get on and tackle the list!




Home Etc

Linking up with the lovely Twinkle Diaries and Mummy of Boy and Girl Twins for #HomeEtc

Saturday, 14 May 2016

A Star Wars themed 5th Birthday Party

I have written before about how my little Bean is a tad obsessed with David Bowie at the moment and so when I quizzed him on what he'd like to do for his birthday, I wasn't totally surprised when he said a 'David Bowie' party! A few sleepless nights ensued as I wondered what on earth I would do with a bunch of 5 year olds at a David Bowie themed party, I mean aside of painting their faces!   So I was quite relieved that the more Pinterest-able theme of a 'Star Wars' party was eventually picked. 'Star Wars' is obviously not an unusual theme for a boy's party but it is unusual for Bean, given he has not actually watched the film yet!

It was however, a super fun theme to plan things around- I do love a theme! For the food we had the standard party food fare although I did make Ham Solo sandwiches and  grape and strawberry light sabers (fruit kebabs to you and me). Be warned though, that kebab sticks are particularly lethal around 5 year olds! The minute the fruit was eaten, my clever mum remembered to collect them all up and bin them for fear of eyes being poked out. 

My mum also made the masterpiece of a cake. We don't have an oven at the moment and so my mum kindly offered to make the cake, which was a relief, I'm not sure a microwave or slow cooker cake would have hit the spot!



 
For the games and activities as they arrived, we made R2D2 robots and decorated light sabers. The intention was to use the decorated sabers for a later game of 'Pin the Light Saber on the Yoda' but their 5 year old obsession with the glitter glue meant they didn't dry properly so we had to make some more. We went for the standard musical chairs and pass the parcel and added in a couple of adapted Star Wars games where the children had to run to a Star Wars character when the music stops and the group standing by one of the chosen characters (selected by parents), wins a sweet.




In all honesty, I found this party the most stressful from all the parties we've had before. I don't know if it's just the combination of boisterous 5 year old boys or whether the fact that I didn't know many of the children impacted on this but they just didn't quite settle. They spent quite a lot of time play fighting, it took a while to encourage them all to play the games and their attention spans were zilch!! 

I was just so thankful that I had a lot of help from family and my super amazing teacher friend- Fran, who initiated some of the games and kept them in order! We had a Jedi assault course where they all had to complete a challenge to receive their Jedi Certificate but knocked the head on the light saber fighting for fear it would become carnage! 

After the pin the light saber on Yoda (at which they all cheated!), we attacked the Darth Vader piƱata. This was probably their favourite part of the party, some of them had a lot of aggression! 

All in all, Bean and his friends had the best time and went happily on their way with their space themed party bags. I was quite impressed with the little space trinkets I found for the party bags- they were something a little bit different. They had a Star Wars Kinder Egg, a 3D puzzle spaceship, a finger space rocket, build their own droid and a Blast Fact Space Card to learn about different planets. All were EBay finds! 

I think though, Mr M and I will think a little differently next year and perhaps go for a more activity heavy party! Maybe something outside, like football to keep the high spirited boys occupied!

As ever, I'm always disappointed with how few photos I remember to take at birthday parties! For more 'Star Wars' inspiration and images of some of the ideas we incorporated, please see my Pinterest Page.

But a happy day for our little Bean ended with him snuggling down to watch his birthday present of the Star Wars film.




Sunday, 10 April 2016

Hot Chocolate Dates {The Ordinary Moments}

I suppose part of the reason I write this blog is because I'm clinging onto memories of the children being littlees. I often think I'd love to bottle these moments and store them in a cellar like the BFGs dreams and then I could take them down and re-watch the memories whenever I felt like it. I am hoping that this blog will become that kind of beautiful-memory-visual-time-capsule like the emotion balls from the film 'Inside Out' but also somewhere where we capture the reality of life with 3 (soon to be 4 children!)

One thing I desperately want to savour and cling onto is our children's request to have one on one time. We've made a promise to them that we'll spend one day with them on their own a couple of times a year. So, a kind of date with Mum whilst Dad looks after the others and then a date with Dad and Visa Versa. The date doesn't have to be anything particularly magical, it's simply just about spending time and focusing on one child completely and making them feel special.

So far, I've had my dates with Pip and Bean and they both chose to go for a hot chocolate and cake and just have a chat! How sweet are they?! It was a lovely, special time as they rambled on about what they'd been doing at school and whatever was filling their little heads that day. Bean chose his hot chocolate date to be at my all time favourite cafe/ nursery which we have moved a little way from now but I was chuffed he still remembered it and wanted to go back there. We pottered around the nursery first and chose a couple of plants for our new garden, a new succulent for my ever expanding collection (succulents seem to be the thing I am pinning the most at the moment?!) before heading inside for a Guinness and Chocolate cake (Bean adored this)! Bean found an old, vintagey looking vegetable garden book and we spent some time planning what we would grow in our vegetable garden once we get it cleared. Bean chose vegetables that looked pretty, I was veering towards veg that mentioned it was easy to grow and not attractive to bugs! The two often didn't match up so who knows what we will end up growing!

                               

                                 

                                


Pip chose for our hot chocolate date to be at a cafe in Beckenham which has the best little bookshop next to it (aptly named the Beckenham Bookshop) she likes the fact that they have books out you can read and browse and I picked up a fair few ideas for her next birthday or Christmas presents! 

                                  


I know they won't always want to spend time with us and won't always relish our company and so I really wanted to bottle this moment. Their happiness at having mummy time and listening to their ramblings and gaining their thoughts on their life at the minute was priceless. 

 

Monday, 29 February 2016

A little announcement.....






We're expecting baby number 4!



Are we stark raving mad or up for an adventure? I'm not sure yet but I'm looking forward to the journey ahead!


After I wrote this post (clearly I was still post pregnancy hormonal from our third) Mr M and I focused on moving house and any talk of a new baby went out of the window. We even got rid of a fair amount of baby paraphernalia when clearing out the loft (although we kept a few crucial items). So it was quite a shock when we discovered (2 days before we moved in) that we were expecting baby number 4.


The shock took over for a few weeks, thoughts ran to how on earth were we going to manage 4? How were we going to afford 4? Would 4 fit in the new house? It seemed in those early days of pregnancy that the children were running wild. Every bad day we had where they bickered or tantrummed, Mr M and I would just look at each other and mouth "how will we cope with 4?" But now I just have that mixed feeling of excitement coupled with anxiety and hoping that everything will be OK. It's still early days (18 weeks) but I'm so excited to meet the new little addition and start our lives as a family of 6!


The children are thrilled with the news and have taken to kissing the baby every night. They keep discussing where it will sleep and what to call it (we have votes for Baby Bowie and Elsa so far!) and Elodie is firmly in pink camp whereas Finlay is crossing everything for a brother!


It's been a slightly rocky road in terms of scans and the baby's health but we've reached the 18 week mark and I feel ready to share baby number 4 with the world. We're just keeping everything crossed that it will be healthy and well and will join us in the summer for a whole other adventure to begin!




Saturday, 27 February 2016

Big Visit to the City

Ever since Mr M moved offices to the more central location of the swish Canary Wharf, we have promised the kids we would visit to see the view. We finally got around to it this weekend and decided to go for it regardless of the cloudy weather.
 
It was really rather surreal being in a huge but deserted office in the City, although I was thankful that there was no one around to watch our terrors make themselves completely at home in the office! I generally wandered around after them, removing any trace of them having been there! They played on the phones, tapped on the computers, pretended to post letters and found whiteboards to doodle on (I'm not sure that I cleared off their little pictures so that might have been a surprise for someone on Monday morning!)


 
The view was still impressive (despite the clouds) but the children were far more excited by the posh toilets and a stamping machine! You can't win them all! 

We had planned to wander the river but it was freezing so we opted for a cafe lunch of toasted sandwiches instead before heading home. Upon arrival, E+F promptly set up an office in their bedrooms and played 'going to work' where they wrote letters to each other all afternoon.

Fin-Bobs clearly loved his time at Daddy's office because he has convinced himself that we are visiting every week. I had to break the news to him that it wasn't going to a weekly trip. The only thing that cheered him up was finding his pass from the day, which he goes around 'scanning' on our door frames to pretend to let everyone in!

It's nice for all of us to put a place to the name and have somewhere in mind to imagine when Daddy goes to work.It's funny really, how enthralled they were with the whole experience, it's the same when they have visited me at work, they just want to do what we do and are desperate to do big, grown up things. I remember being the same way when I used to visit my Dad at work when I was little - it felt like I was entering a big grown up world with big words and important documents and where it felt super special to little and looked after and shown off to all of my Dad's colleagues.

It's typical how we spend our whole childhood's trying to be more grown up then we are and then when we're all grown up, we long to escape work and return to our childhoods!

 


 


Thursday, 18 February 2016

Dreaming of Inspiration

Holidays for the last few years have meant one thing to us: time to be inspired. As our busy weeks blur into busy months, we relish that time together to be inspired by new places but also time and space to be energised by books, music and new conversations. Our inspirational place for the last few years has been Ireland. We are in no doubt that it's one of the most magical places to holiday in, particularly with young children but it's made more special for us because that's where my family is from. My great auntie used to say that Achill Island off the West Coast of Ireland was the most beautiful place in the world because it was the last place on earth that God created and I can hardly disagree.
 


We are lucky in that we can stay in my parent's lovely house on the river with a traditional town on the doorstep. Everyone has their own little story in the town, like the man from Yorkshire who has been fixing up his old boat for years. We love holidays where there's people to meet, stories to hear and space to be just us. For the last few years the children have made scrapbooks of our holidays, I love that scrapbooks are a re-discovery of adventures when you return home. Now that we are collecting memories here, I am excited about more paintings, more sand-swept sculptures and scribbles of adventures and collections of happy times to look back on when we are all grown up.

There is one little problem with Ireland and that is tendency for horizontal rain! We are lucky that our little ones don't mind the rain, they'll go in the sea despite the cold and enjoy beach combing in rock pools and splashing about in the sea regardless of the weather. They can't wait to learn how to surf!




If I had one wish for my little ones, it would be that they could see more of the world and embrace new environments. We'd love to do more travelling as they're now at an age when they are quizzical and they delight in hearing about other countries and their stories. I think the greatest gift we could give them would be to experience new food, languages, music, different views and landscapes.
 

Elodie received a globe for Christmas and marvelled at how small England is and how many places there are to discover. Her head is full of stories from far flung lands and she spends her days filling notebooks about all the wonderful adventures she hopes to have.

 

Finlay's head is full of planes, the children have never been on a plane and he delights in building them from Lego. Finlay is longing to be inspired by the joy of the journey.


In Mr M's head is the need 'for peace and quiet', he is dreaming of gained time away from the daily referee and battle of life with small children and a chance to escape from commuter trains and early starts. 

In Orla's head is plenty of sand to eat, the joy of water to lap around her toes and time with her brother and sister to make mischief and sand dens.



And in my head is the hope to squeeze as much adventure out of these days. Life is short. I have itchy feet and a restless head. In my head is dreams of chasing the sun and planning our own mini getaway. One day we hope to take the kids out of school, take ourselves out of work and travel for 6 months, anywhere we fancy, learning a little more about our world along the way. But for now, I am inspired by the promise of new sights and new sounds and I am inspired by the recording of memories and the hope to capture the time together and bottle it, before they grow too big..............
 


 



 This is my little entry into the Mark Warner #MarkWarnerMum/ #MarkWarnerDad 2016 Family Ambassador scheme. Find out more about how you can enter here.








Running in Lavender