Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: Family (page 1 of 5)

The best things to do in Cornwall with children

Going to Cornwall on holiday is now firmly set in our annual family traditions as it was in my own childhood, it’s a place that feels like home whenever we visit, a place that can be horrendously busy if you head to the hotspots but full of glorious scenery and a place where memories are made. I can still remember the smell of the wetsuit rental shop tucked away on an industrial estate in Braunton we’d visit to get out wetsuits for the week, that mix of neoprene with salt and board wax which tell you you’re officially on holiday. I remember taking a rowing boat out on the Bude canal with my brother and annoying all the fishermen as we struggled to row in a straight line, I also remember the journeys down from Oxfordshire where turning off the M5 felt like you were almost there but in reality it was a long way yet. There is another reason why Cornwall will always be a special place for me, Tintagel castle was the place that I proposed to the lady of the manor. A time that feels like a lifetime ago but was a big moment in this adventure we’re on together and that’s good enough reason on its own to go back every year.

But go back we will and with Matilda and Henry loving it as much as we do I don’t think we’ll get much choice in the matter any time soon. Easter is the time we tend to go, risky weather wise but no matter what the weather we know we’ll have great fun and so I thought I’d share with you our top 5 places to visit.

The Eden Project

The Eden Project could well be our favourite place in the UK to visit, we’ve now been 5 times in the past year (thanks to the annual pass which is the same price as day entry) and each time have discovered something different and are yet to be bored, parents or children. ‘The domes’ as Matilda and Henry call them is just fabulous, no cheesy gimmicky rides or activities but so much to keep the children engaged and interested from the short cuts designed just for kids on the walk down to the amazing rain forest walk for those who like heights. There’s the story teller in the Mediterranean biome who we listen to while eating lunch and the ride on the tractor train to get back to the exit. The list could quite honestly go on and makes no mention of the seasonal activities they put on or the wonderful and varied food options. For adults or older children there is plenty of education on the plants and the environment and this year ‘the seed’ a stone sculpture that took my breath away. They also sell a mean latte and some of the best ice cream you can buy (it is Cornwall after all).

Mirrored giant at Eden Project

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Kid free time – everyone wins

There are certain numbers that every parent knows with a high degree of precision; the amount of hours they or their partner were in labour, the weight their child weighed at birth, when their child walked (although that one fades a little once they pass 5 years of age) and how long it’s been (to the nearest day) since they last had kid free time with their wife/husband/partner. Those heavenly moments where you skip out the house as a grandparent, willing or otherwise, volunteers to look after your little monsters angels. The skip may even be accompanied with a few whoops if it also means that you’re avoiding having to do bedtime with them. Rupert was 13 months when the lady of the manor and I had out first evening out, we went to see James Bond at the cinema, not much change to watching TV in the evening I guess but even so we felt FREE.

The last time we had a night away together without children was on 24th April 2014 and technically one was actually with us because we think that might have been the weekend Rupert was conceived. But at least at that point he wasn’t able to cry, scream or talk to us, or for that matter play with the bin, throw things in the toilet or try to break the telephone.

I of course love my children, I love being with them, playing with them, seeing them grow. But you realise how much you love them when you have a short time away from the intense, all consuming activity that is parenthood. As they say a break is as good as a holiday and those short breaks certainly feel like a treat. But here’s the best bit, it’s also pretty darn good for your kids, especially if you have more than one like we do. Let me give you an example.

kid free time

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The quiet family dinner out

Picture the scene; we’re driving back from a busy day out at the Lost gardens of Heligan (great family day out BTW), the boys are asleep in the back and Matilda is chatting away to herself. The lady of the manor and I are discussing dinner plans for the evening, we’ve had a good day but any day out with 3 children under 5 cannot be described as relaxing. Unless of course relaxing means feeling like you’ve run a marathon while shouting 10 times every mile “don’t touch that” “stay away from the edge” “that’s not for climbing on” “what do you mean you’re hungry again” “you’ll just have to wee in a bush”.

The thought of dinner out sounds very attractive, we talk ourselves into it; the boys have napped so will be in a good mood, the pub is on the way home anyway and it means no washing up (as the lady of the manor keeps telling me, it’s not a holiday if there’s washing up). Maybe it was the day in the sun, maybe we just had low sugar levels, whatever the reason we take the plunge and pull into the car park. Miraculously they are serving food all day (anyone else find it a nightmare with small children finding somewhere to eat before 5pm?) and we find a corner in a large and quite empty restaurant.

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Change

Change, always with us, right under our noses, but most of the time unnoticed. Our children growing and learning before our eyes but so gradual that we don’t realise until BAM! They’re walking, or writing their name, or colouring within the lines and you’re wondering when the hell they learnt to do that. In the whirlwind that is life with small children it can be easy not to stop and acknowledge these changes, but one of the main reasons I started this blog was have a record of the changes and the milestones. So I’m taking the chance of this rare moment of peace on a Sunday night to put another entry into this families history.

Matilda writing

The past of month or so has been crazy as we settle into life as a family dictated by the schedule of the school day, it feels like a stricter life full of deadlines, to do lists and most of all rushing. But it’s also been a big month of change. Matilda unsurprisingly leads the way, I find it absolutely fascinating watching her learn to read and write. We didn’t push either at all before she went to school, preferring to let her choose if she was interested, after all they have enough years of school ahead of them to learn those types of skills. But in the space of this first half term she’s already picking up a bunch of letter sounds, has started to read simple words (in the ever so dull) books she brings home and can write her name. She’s so excited and interested in learning it’s great, most mornings after breakfast she will sit down and tell me that she needs to practise her writing.

Henry on the lady of the manors shoulders

Rupert seems to spend most his time trying to keep up with his big brother and sister, crawling around the house after them like a crazy thing and climbing on them when he does catch them. But yesterday we had the big moment, the first steps, aside from birth this is hands down my favourite moment of being a parent. I love the look on their faces when they realise they can move around standing up and no longer have to crawl everywhere. He did 4 giant steps from me to the lady of the manor, only the once though of course, every time I’ve tried to stand him up since he either bounces up and down laughing or tries to sit down and crawl away. I’m trying desperately not to be a pushy dad but I can’t wait to seem in tottering around the house even if it inevitably means he spends half his time being knocked over by one of the other 2 not looking where they’re going.

Henry smiling

Finally Henry, my little dude, who is becoming this very confident, chatty and kind little boy. Not that he wasn’t chatty or kind before he was just more of a baby than a boy. I think he’s actually enjoying Matilda being at school now because it means he gets some time at home and preschool when she isn’t there telling him what to do. As there is only 13 months between them this is really the first time he’s ever been without her. A new girl joined preschool recently and on her first day they were doing music, Henry made room for her to sit down and then shared his musical instrument with her. I love that he is so thoughtful and kind, trying to care for others. He also loves exploring, we had a day at Dyrham park today and he was climbing trees, look in holes, digging and jumping in leaves. He likes nothing better than to be outside and preferably getting dirty.

They may be exhausting most of the time and drive me to say ‘for gods sake’ most days (incidentally I don’t think anything they do is for gods sake, it’s mostly to wind me up) but they really are awesome little people. Now if I could just perhaps have a quiet evening occasionally and maybe 6 hours sleep every so often that would be great.

Just one more week?

I’ve a serious case of the back to work blues tonight and I’m not even back to work for another 12 hours. The last week of holiday has been fabulous, hard and tiring at times as you would expect with 3 small children but that’s soon forgotten when you are making memories isn’t it? That’s after all what family holidays should be all about, making memories, creating those stories that you reminisce about for years to come. I know I still talk about things I did on holiday as a small child over 20 years ago and I hope Matilda and Henry will be doing the same.

We’d planned to go to the Lake District camping for 4 days after our wedding anniversary celebrations had finished which would have been awesome, but a weather forecast of heavy rain and 40 mph gusts of wind soon changed our minds. Who wants to be in a tent with 3 children and a dog in weather like that? It’s a real shame as I think we would have had an amazing time and I really wanted to be in that landscape again. Instead we did a bunch of day trips; we went to the Cotswold Farm Park (Adam’s farm for you Countryfile fans), Leigh Woods in Bristol, to the lake for a swim and bacon sandwich and then to the Cotswold Wildlife park (a big feature in both mine and the lady of the manor’s childhoods).

We had such a great week, a good mixture of visiting attractions and then low key days in the forest with Bracken along for a run around too. I also grabbed time this weekend for some daddy son and daddy daughter time with the 2 big ones; Henry and I went to the canal to look at the boats and I went to Avebury with Matilda (which is fab for kids if you haven’t been). Funny that the weather in April for our holiday was better than August but that didn’t matter, however I now want to have another 6 weeks just like the last one.

While I go off to buy a lottery ticket here’s a few photos from the past week.

Alex and Rupert

Henry by Lake 32

In Leigh Woods

Matilda and Henry feeding the horses

Matilda outside Avebury Manor

Penguins at cotswold wildlife park

Pops

 

Bracken

Matilda with a Rabbit

The definition of happiness

10 years ago today I stood up in front of family and friends and said ‘I do’ to the lady of the manor, 10 years! 10 whole years that feel like just yesterday but also a lifetime ago. In my wedding day speech I said that happiness was marrying your best friend and I feel very privileged to be able to call this incredbile woman my best friend. It’s incredible to think that what started out as teenage lust and a snog at a house party all those years ago has turned into this wonderful marriage. Where even in our normal sleep deprived state we laugh together and that lust is definitely still there, stronger than ever (hence 3 children under 4!).

tipping 114

An awful  lot has happened in the last 10 years and when I look back at our wedding photos it would appear I’ve aged at least 20 years while the lady of the manor barely looks any different. It hasn’t always been easy, we’ve been through some real low points that have pushed us to the brink, but also some amazing highs not least the arrival of these 3 crazy little things that seem to follow us around. However no matter what I know that we make the perfect team and will get through anything together.

Drinks 34 - A+B by car 5

This year as you all know has been one of the toughest and we almost didn’t celebrate this occasion because it didn’t feel right doing it without Nanna. But we decided that she would have wanted us to be happy and spend the day with the family that were so important to her. So on Sunday after weeks of preying to the weather gods we had a garden party at home in glorious sunshine with cake and fizz on the menu. You have honestly never seen so many mouth watering cakes in one place, all made by friends or family and almost all eaten before the day was out. It was such a perfect way to mark the occasion, surrounded by friends and family, drinking the same Prosecco we had on our wedding day.

 Family photo at anniversary party

We feel very blessed this week knowing that we have these amazing people around us to help us through the tough times giving us the support we need, but who are also there to celebrate the good times with us. I’m not the most social of people, I don’t have masses of friends but the ones I do have I value highly and they mean a lot to me. This week I’m reminding myself of their importance to me and in particular this amazing woman next to me who is my best friend.

With that I raise my glass to love and friendship and to Alex who I love now, forever and always.

P.S. this also means I can now tick another thing off my Bucket List!

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Me and Mine – May 2015

This months edition of the family photo project should be subtitled ‘crash, bang, wallop’ for as you will see it has been a month of accidents and visits to various medical professionals. But all’s well that ends well and all that. Writing these posts can sometimes feel like Groundhog day but mainly that’s because when I think about what we’ve done in the last month it’s all a haze of sleepless nights and feeling tired. The lady of the manor and I often wake up in the morning and struggle to piece together exactly when and for how long Rupert and therefore us, slept. Because of that it’s also hard doing much more than just getting through each day, let alone find the energy to tackle the long to do list of household chores.

But May has been a good month I think and one that’s ending with a positive outlook if you ignore the weather forecast. It’s also been one where we’ve been making use of our National Trust membership and this months photo was taken at Lacock Abbey, one of their properties.

On the lawns at Lacock Abbey

This month I’ve been mainly getting into the triathlon groove; April’s coastal runs were the spark I needed to get back into proper training as was the realisation that it’s now 12 weeks until race day! But quite honestly I’ve been loving it, especially the cold but beautiful 6.30am Saturday morning swims in the lake. Once you get over your breath being taken away by the cold it’s quite exhilarating swimming in open water watching the fish swim through the weed beds below (if you don’t believe me you can read the post on my Running blog about it here) . I’m enjoying the feeling of training and pushing my body again but it’s hard work getting out in the mornings after 5 hours broken sleep sometimes. I’ve also been enjoying firing up my pizza oven again, nothing like cooking on fire to make you get in touch with your inner cave man.

Ready for my first OW swim

The lady of the manor has also stepped up her training in May and is now up to 7km in her runs, she’s also taken the plunge and entered a half marathon in September. No stopping here what’s she’s determined to do something! She’s also been making an awesome birthday cake for Henry who turned the grand old age of 3 in the middle of the month.

Aside from turning 3 (and at the same time seemingly growing up overnight) Henry has spent May getting himself a nice bump on the head when he decided to use his forehead to break his fall out the front of the pushchair. He’s such a happy little dude though and after a trip to the hospital to have it glued he was back to his usual self, climbing on chairs and generally being a boy.

Bob the Builder cake

Matilda has also been in the wars, always rushing and competing to be first meant that this week she managed to roll her balance bike into the road and fall off. Nothing more serious than a banged elbow but frightening nonetheless. She’s become fascinated by numbers and letters this month, asking me to read the summary on the back of books as well as the book and making me point to the words I’m saying. It’s fascinating watching them develop isn’t it? I’m a big believer in letting them take it at their own pace though, support them but don’t push them, enjoy the process.

As for Rupert, well he is still the happiest smiliest baby you will ever meet, but he also holds the world record for the baby who sleeps the fewest hours. It’s rare that he sleeps for more than 2 hours at a time and most nights we’re up 5 or 6 times at least. Pretty exhausting but we now have some hope having gone to the GP and pleaded for help. We’ve been referred to the hospital to get treatment for reflux and have some Ranitadine which after a few days seems to be having an effect (I’ve only been disturbed once this evening while writing this). The GP in her referral letter to the hospital said ‘please treat as urgent, the parents are clearly exhausted’ sounds about right. On a cheerier note he is threatening to crawl any day now, always up on all fours and occasionally move his hands forward a little.

3 in a bed

Finally Bracken, who decided in May that escaping from the garden was good fun. The first time he did it we came down from putting the children to bed to a phone call from the vet to say he was there. We didn’t even know he was gone! But he’d made it 1.5 miles away and was found in the middle of the road in the town. Scary to think what could have happened to him. He got out again 3 more times that week some how evading my temporary barriers on the one section of low fence but thankfully we found him much quicker those times. He hurt himself one of the times and had pain killers for 3 days to treat a pulled back muscle. Just what we needed!

We’ve a lot to look forward to next month; a wedding, camping, a weeks holiday and maybe some warm weather? What did you get up to in May?

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