Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Category: Family (page 3 of 25)


The lady of the manor and I are tired. Knackered. Exhausted. Done. If we were a steak we’d be well done, left on the coals until slightly shrivelled. We’re physically tired but also mentally tired. Tired of not having evenings without needing to resettle Rupert at least 3 times. Tired of the big ones waking up at 5.30am every day and having a meltdown if we tell them to go back to bed. Tired of needing all our energy just to tread water and not ever make progress. Perhaps most importantly tired of not having time for us, we don’t go out in the evening because we don’t want a baby sitter to have to try to resettle Rupert.

I love my crazy gang and I LOVE being a dad, my favourite moment of every day is opening the door in the evening and hearing the shouts of DADDY as Matilda runs to meet me, but this past few weeks has pushed us close to the edge. Rupert has had the triple whammy of reflux, teething and a cold. We’ve average 4 hours sleep a night for the past week or so and it has not been pretty. Going to work and trying to engage my brain to deal with meetings and email has been a challenge, although I’d say it was an achievement not to have nodded off at any point.

Clearly none of this is Rupert’s fault, I’m sure he’d much rather sleep all night than waking up gagging with the acid from his reflux, but when you spend 40 minutes rocking him to sleep it doesn’t always feel that way. I found myself a few times shouting at him in the middle of the night ‘just shut up and go to sleep’. How ridiculous is that? To be shouting at an 8 month old baby who most likely has no clue what you are saying. When he did finally drop off I’d creep back to bed racked with guilt for being such an uncaring bastard.

The face of innocence

The face of innocence

The glimmer of hope right now is that last night was better, we actually got a block of 4 hours sleep. 4 hours! Hilarious to be celebrating such a small amount of sleep but it really makes a difference. He is now the proud owner of 2 big teeth (4 months earlier than his siblings) and his cold is abating, who knows when his reflux will go away. Although if one more person tells me it’ll stop when he’s eating I’ll shove the leftovers from his 3 meals a day in their face. Same for the ones that say ‘he’s a big boy, bet he sleeps well’, such old wives tales.

If anyone has any top tips for dealing with reflux please keep them to yourself.

A walk on the wild side

When you’re under 5 what could be more exciting than a walk along winding forest paths following a map? Throw in some activities along the way and the occasional swing to swing on, fallen tree to climb and a picnic and I think it may be close to a perfect day out. Which is why I love our National Trust membership and the way they have embraced families visiting their properties. I remember well visits to National Trust properties as a child where it seemed like every bit of grass had a ‘do not walk on’ sign and the houses were places you were told to stop making so much noise.

Botanic garden lacock

But not any more and a trip to Lacock at the weekend proved it. We’re trying to get to all the National Trust places within about an hour of where we live this year. So far we’ve been to Avebury (which is just down the road) and The Vyne so are a bit behind, but Lacock was one more ticked off with Dyrham Park lined up this week also.

We’ve visited Lacock village quite a few times as we used to live just down the road in Trowbridge but had never been in the Abbey. Most of our previous visits have involved doing the scarecrow trail around the village which happened to be on this weekend also. But I’ll be honest I find the trail a little weird as most of the scarecrows aren’t really scarecrows, the one outside the ice cream stall for example was a pink bird cut out of a cardboard box. What exactly is that?!

Rope swing Lacock forest

But I can’t believe what we were missing in the Abbey! Such beautiful gardens and they had a mad inventors trail on for the children to follow and collect stamps (what child doesn’t like collecting stamps?). All inspired by the fact that Lacock was the place where the first photographic negative was developed (who knew?!). I really don’t think anyone does family friendly quite like the National Trust, always feel so welcome and you can see lots of thought has gone into designing the gardens etc to keep them interested.

We had great fun following the paths around the gardens, trying to spot the tools that were hidden in the trees. The wild garlic carpeting the floor smelled amazing all the way around and the kids had so much fun playing on the rope swing. We then ended up in front of the Abbey around lunch time and had a fab picnic on the grass there in glorious sun. What more could you ask for?

Using a telescope at Lacock

The grounds are also just the right size for our 2, plenty of space to run around in but not too big so it’s a long trek back to the car when they’re tired out and need carrying. Although do take food with you as I don’t think there is anywhere in the grounds to buy food or drink from, but there are plenty of lovely spots for a picnic.

We’ll definitely be back to Lacock again, but maybe not until we’ve been to a few more new places. If you have any recommendations of places within an hour or so of Swindon then send them my way. I’d also love to know what you favourite National Trust property is.

What do you do for work daddy?

Today was my day to take Matilda to preschool, I try to do it once a week to give the lady of the manor a break from getting out the house early and also simply because I quite like being part of what the children do each day. On Tuesday’s it’s just Matilda, Henry has a day at home, which is great because we get a little one on one time to bond. However it also means Matilda has 10 minutes in the car with me alone to interrogate me. The subjects vary wildly and normally start with a seemingly innocuous question before BAM she hits you with the killer punch.

This morning it started all very light with a chat about why there weren’t animals in the fields (grain was growing) and whether she would be making her Easter basket today (she is). But then the real interrogation started:

Matilda: Mummy works at a hospital doesn’t she?

Me: She sure does

Matilda: She looks after people and makes them better if they bang their heads or break their legs.

Me: Exactly, she looks after children just like you.

Matilda: what do you do at work?

Me: well, I, err, use a computer. And help people manager their money. And make sure they spend it on the right things.

Matilda: *puzzled face*

How exactly do you explain to a 3 year old that you’re a management accountant? As I tell her what I do even I realise it sounds a bit bonkers. When you compare it to the lady of the manor who has a ‘real’ job mine sounds a bit pointless. Maybe that should be a new rule? If you can’t convince a 3 year old that your job is worthwhile then it shouldn’t exist?

Precisely the reason also why the lady of the manor and I now have a 3 year plan to make some big changes to our lives and the work we do. I’m not quite ready to share them yet but soon maybe. In the mean time I’m going to enjoy watching Matilda become the strong, intelligent and fiercely independent girl she’s shaping up to be.

Matilda on rope bridge

The life of a daffodil

Today we say goodbye to the lady of the manor’s mum, the children’s beloved Nanna, who was taken from us far too soon. Mum, Nanna, wife, sister, daughter and friend. When people die you often hear about the impact they had on the world, the things they invented or the lives they saved. Nanna may not have received a Nobel prize but the fact that we are expecting 200 people to the funeral tells you all you need to know about the impact she had on the people around her.

She touched the lives of so many people, she brought happiness and laughter, she was the most thoughtful person I know, always remembering anniversary’s or special milestones. Every time we saw her she’d have a little gift of some sort, something she’d spotted and bought ‘just because’. She was always willing to help someone in need and opened her house on many occasions for friends to stay, when I first met the Lady of the Manor they had 2 of their friends children staying with them while the parents found somewhere new to live.

I also know how much having grandchildren meant to her, her cancer was diagnosed just before Matilda was born and seeing them often gave her the boost she needed to get through another round of treatment. But I hate that they won’t have the chance to feel her love as they grow up, that she won’t be there to see them become adults and go on to achieve whatever it is they’ll do. We’ll do everything we can to make sure they know she loved them and thankfully due to the wonder of the smart phone have hundreds of photos and videos to show them as they grow up but would happily trade those to see her again.

No one expects to lose their mum at such a young age, no mum expects their daughter to pass away before them. But cancer is a bastard and it has left a big hole in our lives. One that is going to take a long time to heal and we will miss her every day. One that makes us want to rant and rave at the unfairness of it, to scream at the doctors for not being able to fix it and one that we wish we could protect our tiny children from having to deal with.

It is perhaps fitting that she passed away in spring time as Daffodils were her very favourite flowers and in our garden this week the first Daffodils have started to bloom. Just like a Daffodil hidden from sight in the earth during the winter we know she is there, with us all the time. The memories of her will light up our days just like the bright, yellow trumpets of the Daffodils do every spring.

Rest in peace Nanna, we’ll miss you.

Maureen in pink

Easy as pie

A week ago Rupert had never had anything to eat other than breast milk, today he had 3 solid meals. Last week he was showing the signs of being interested as he intently watched every forkful of food from plate to mouth. He’s 4 months old this week so we thought we’d give him a little taste and see how he got on.

He liked it.

A lot.

Rupert smiling and eating

This morning for breakfast he had a whole bowl of baby porridge, for dinner half a sweet potato. Quite clearly he is a food monster and growing fast. There is also very little mess with every last drop of purée sucked off the spoon each time. He’s even started shouting at us if we don’t feed him quick enough.

I always knew he would start earlier than the other 2, he is after all already as heavy as Matilda was when she was 1, but we’ve gone from no food to regular meals awfully quickly. It’s one of those milestones that make you realise how much your baby is developing and we’re clinging onto each one for as long as possible because we have no plans to do this again. It feels odd writing that down, I’m not tempted at all by a 4th child but for the last 4 years our life has revolved around babies and toddlers. Knowing that we are on the path (albeit only on the very first step) towards having children rather than babies is strange. Right now it’s hard to remember a life without children, a time when we could just pop out at the weekend without having to plan around naps or take a suitcase worth of things with us. Life was simpler and most definitely easier then but it wasn’t half as much fun.

Rupert in Stokke eating porridge

For now though we can enjoy an immediate future full of messy bibs, purées, plastic cups and bowls and most likely needing to repaint food stained walls. Incidentally my top tip for anyone going through the weaning stage is to get a dog, makes cleaning up after a whole lot easier when the canine hoover has been sat under the high chair. I Imagine we’ll also be getting through quite a few sweet potatoes and bananas over the next few weeks also.

We have also been hoping but not daring to say out loud that maybe, just maybe he might decide to sleep for longer than 2 hours at a time. That perhaps the combination of some solid food and him coming out of the development phase he’s going through could mean he wakes just 2 or 3 times a night? Would that be too much to ask for? Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Oh and if you have any great suggestions for meals we can offer a 4 month old then let me know. We did baby led weaning with the other 2 so didn’t really get involved with the mush.

What’s in my man bag?

One evening just before Rupert was born the Lady of the Manor announced that she had found our new nappy bag, which confused me a little. Given that we had children already we of course also had collected at least 4 nappy bags that were gradually gathering dust in a cupboard some where. But apparently a new baby means a new nappy bag no matter what, clearly I missed the bit of the baby book that covered the maths of having a baby. I believe the formula is b ≥ C + 2, where b is the number of bags and C is the number of children. Another useful formula to remember is the one for the number of hours sleep you’ll get a night which I believe is  8 – (C x 2). With 3 children at home I’d say that was about right.

The net result of this is that we now have a lovely new nappy bag with the Lady of the Manor clinching the deal by telling me that it was blue and therefore suitable for me to take out too. To give her some credit it is actually very nice and one I don’t mind taking out which can’t be said for many of them. It’s a Babymule Pegasus and so far has been very good, easy to use and big enough to take all the things we need with 3 children.

BabyMule Pegasus

Which is a good thing because it stops me ending up with wet wipes or half chewed bread sticks in my only real man bag which is the one I use for work. In fact the contents of my work bag don’t look a whole lot different to when I did this post 3 years ago. I have a newer phone and thankfully a better laptop but that’s about it, I don’t really want to turn up to a customer meeting and have a nappy fall out of my bag do I?

But Marks and Spencer have asked me to share an insight into the essential baby items in my bag to celebrate the launch of the new dedicated baby section of their website, so here’s what we stuff into our Pegasus each time. Having 3 children at very different stages of potty training means you need to carry lots of different things. Nappies and wipes for Rupert, multiple changes of clothes for a recently potty trained Henry and then spare clothes for an accident prone Matilda. Plus drinks, most likely some Calpol, a couple of toys and also a bottle of water for us.

Zip locked baby clothes

The other absolute essential is food, we’ve learnt the hard way that if you want Matilda to be happy on a walk or trip out you need to hand her something to eat as she gets out of the car. She could have eaten a huge breakfast just before we left home and would still be miserable until she gets some more food in her. Ham sandwiches seem to go down well as does a banana, although if she had a choice she would of course pick chocolate or cake, she has such a sweet tooth (just like me).

I’ve created a Pinterest board with the items any nappy bag should contain including a few of my favourites from the M&S Baby range. Would love to know what you think and what the essentials in your bag are.

Follow Ben’s board What’s in your man bag? on Pinterest.

Happy 5th birthday Bracken

Today is Bracken’s 5th birthday, which I guess means that he’s entering into his 30’s in human years and so should be settling down and starting to think about having a family now that he can’t hack the pace of the Friday night partying. Except of course that he’s a Springer so he mainly behaves as if he’s a puppy still and will happily go for a long afternoon walk even if I’ve run 7 miles with him in the morning.

He is such a fab dog though and despite the fact his tail wagging to greet you could knock an elephant over even though you only popped up stairs to grab a jumper he really is ever so gentle with the children. They’ve both grown up with him so think nothing of clambering over him or when they were little pulling his ears and trying to sit on him. He never bats an eyelid and has never once even growled at them. In fact more often that not you’ll find him curled up right next to Matilda when she’s sat watching TV.

He is of course also my running buddy, the one who gets me out of bed at 6am every day no matter what the weather. I wouldn’t have done half as much running if I didn’t have him as a reason to get out the house. I love being out on the trails with him exploring, even if it is pitch black and all I can see of him is the light on his collar.

He’s not perfect though, he does have a tendency to roll in things when we’re out running. Something he does more often if he hasn’t had enough walks for a few days, punishment for me perhaps? I’m not entirely sure what is worst; rolling in fox/deer poo or the rotting carcass of a dead animal he’s found. Both are pretty bloody disgusting but I guess that’s his inner wild dog coming out.

But we wouldn’t be without him and it does feel very odd on the few occasions when we’ve been home and he’s not here. So Happy Birthday Bracken and I hope you enjoy your mackerel for you birthday dinner.

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