Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: Family (page 3 of 5)

Scotland with toddlers

Walking on Nairn beachScotland; the home of dramatic landscapes, enormous lochs, mighty forests and of course midges. Perhaps not everyone’s first choice of a holiday with 2 toddlers but we loved it. We’ve spent the last 2 weeks in a lovely cottage in the Scottish Highlands near Fort William taking things easy and enjoying the peace and quiet (and no 3G or wifi).

There was of course also the small matter of THE RACE on the middle weekend (you can read the full details and race report here) which offered a small distraction and the lady of the manor was very tolerant of me organising the holiday around that event.

We started the holiday with an 11pm departure from home with the idea being that the children would go back to sleep once in the car. In reality they thought it was absolutely hilarious and were wide awake for the first 100 miles until we gave them a massive bottle of milk. Then everyone around me crashed out and I cruised up the quiet motorways with just a single stop for fuel and coffee before arriving in Fort William at 7.15am just in time for a Wetherspoons breakfast with the kids still in their PJ’s.

Walking with Matilda and HenryAmazingly we kicked off our Scotland adventure with a day on the beach in Nairn with my parents who were holidaying up there. A balmy 18 degrees saw us in shorts and t-shirt, barefoot on the sand and ice cream in hand. Amazing stuff who would have thought it and barely another person in sight.

There were walks in the forest, bike rides with the children in the trailer, sausage rolls, fish and chips, lazy mornings and evenings of reading and writing. Time to just be a family together without any pressure to do anything or be anywhere and the lack of phone signal forcing us to step away from social media for a while,

Bracken was of course in his element, running through the forest and jumping in all the streams. We didn’t walk any huge distances but that didn’t bother him, time outside is all that matters. Although he did have to endure the daily tick check, little buggers get everywhere not that he seems to mind having them pulled out, barely flinching as we poke and prod him.

This holiday suited us down to the earth but there are a few things to keep in mind if you are thinking of going to Scotland with toddlers:

  • Matilda running in the forestScotland is about being outdoors, away from the few big cities there aren’t lots of attractions to visit. The ‘attractions’ are the hills, mountains and lochs so you do need to want to be in the fresh air.
  • The weather is best described as changeable no matter what time of year it is so go prepared, a cold and wet toddler is a grumpy toddler. We have waterproof bib and braces plus jackets for both Matilda and Henry that are perfect, they ensure they are dry and a bib and brace stops draughts as well. We also bought them some fab Karrimor walking boots which although aren’t as waterproof as wellies are much easier for them to walk around in.
  • Forget climbing Ben Nevis or being out all day in the hills when you’re with toddlers you need to think smaller scale. Unless you’re carrying them a long walk is likely to be 2 miles but it’ll still take a few hours as you stop to look at all the streams and pine cones on the way. Don’t let it frustrate you though, embrace it and enjoy exploring the world in this way.
  • Take food, lots of food. If your toddlers are anything like mine they’ll be requesting a snack within an hour of breakfast even if that breakfast was 2 bowls of porridge and a piece of toast. We had to give Matilda food to start the walk as she was already getting hungry!A picnic in the forest

The Gallery – Two

The lady of the manor and I always knew that we wanted children and specifically more than one. While we may still be in negotiation about exactly how many children to have we do both agree that we liked the idea of them being close in age. There are 13 months between Henry and Matilda which has certainly been tough at times, not least for the lady of the manor who was heavily pregnant and dealing with a not yet walking Matilda.

But now we’re starting to see that it was worth that hard work, with Henry almost walking the 2 of them are really starting to interact and play together. They chase each other around the house or up the steps of the slide. They splash each other in the bath and laugh hysterically when the other does something funny.

I can see us having an awful lot of fun this summer once Henry figures out the walking thing properly and begins to talk a bit. Which is why I’m so thankful we moved house and I can get home to do the simple things like read a story to my 2 crazy children in the garden on a beautiful summers evening.

Ben reading to Henry and Matilda

The Gallery – together

One of the main motivations for moving house was so that we could spend more time together as a family. My daily commute went from 1 hour each way on country roads to a 7 minute drive down the road. It was tough moving away from both our friends and Matilda’s but the promise of being able to have breakfast together every morning and time to play together every evening was too much to resist.

Now almost exactly a month later, now we’ve lived this new life of no commuting it’s better than we ever imagined. No more do I disappear out of the door while it’s still dark often without seeing the children. No more do I get home just as the babies are coming out of the bath. No more do I feel knackered every evening from driving for 2 hours a day and dealing with the morons on the road.

Instead I laugh and chat with my babies at breakfast while the lady of the manor has a shower in peace. We spot the squirrels and birds in the garden. We share a plate of toast covered in butter and marmite. We roll around the lounge with Bracken. We do puzzles and read books. Matilda steals my phone to look at photos and videos of herself.

It’s simple things. Simple but important. Things that childhoods are made of and just the beginning of many great memories that we will create in this house together.

But after all that fun and running around is done, there is nothing better than snuggling up and watching an episode of Postman Pat before bath time.

Watching Postman Pat before bed

I’m linking this post up with the Gallery where this weeks theme is Together. You can find the rest of the entries by clicking here.

Autumn glory

I love this time of year.

The cold almost frosty mornings, the clear blue skies, the muddy dog walks, the glorious autumn colours.

The hot chocolate when you get home, the cosy evenings on the sofa and of course the comfort food to eat.


So you believe in families do you Mr Cameron?

Dear David Cameron,

I keep hearing you talk about the importance of families but as someone who has just become a dad for the second time I’m not seeing an awful lot of support. My son was born 3 days ago, this means that if I want to continue earning my full pay this month then tomorrow I need to go back to work. Sure I can take another 2 weeks off, but who can afford to do that when they will soon be losing at least part of their wifes earnings to?

The average UK salary for males is £30,913 which means they take home about £490 a week, statutory paternity pay is £135 a week. So the average man taking the full 2 weeks off will lose  £710 in take home pay. A very tough decision for any family to take, let alone in this environment where we are technically in a recession and many people’s jobs are under threat.

But there is no way the lady of the manor could cope on her own with 2 children, not unless I want to come home to find her collapsed of stress and exhaustion. We want her to be successful with breast feeding (which of course your NHS 100% recommends) but how would she be able to rest enough to do that if I wasn’t at home?

I’m fortunate that my work is supportive and I’ve taken 2 weeks holiday to add to a weeks paternity leave. But many aren’t so lucky or even allowed to take so much time off. These first few weeks are so critical for both the new baby and the family as a whole I hate to think of families missing out.

Despite all this I do actually agree with you Dave, family is important, a good family environment can help prevent many issues in later life for children. So what are you going to do to help ME and my family? Let’s not forget that our child benefit payments stop next year due to the stupid rules you’ve applied penalising a family where just one is a higher rate tax payer. Don’t even get me started on child trust funds.

How about a higher tax free rate for new parents? Or a one off cash payment like parents in Australia receive? Or simply at least 2 weeks PAID paternity leave? If you really do value families and believe that broken families are the cause of many problems then this would be a good place to start.

Yours not hopefully,

The Fool

The Gallery – Picture Postcard

It’s happy centenary to the Gallery this week as it hits week 100, such a great weekly blog activity, I love that it gets people taking photos and interacting. Given what’s happened this week already in the world of the fool there can really only be one way for me to interpret this prompt.

Here’s my picture postcard, a photo that we will actually be using to send thank you cards to our family and friends. My perfect little family with one of each flavour baby, ever so contented in those fabulous few days after the birth where you are floating on a cloud of happiness. No doubt it’s going to get tough with 2 wee ones and the tiredness will kick in soon but for now I give you the Fool’s family complete with Henry the latest addition and future heir to the Fool’s kingdom.


P.S. Forgive me the slushy new dad post’s, normal service will be resumed once I’m grumpy and sleep deprived 🙂

What are your highs and lows from 2011?

Keith of Reluctant house dad fame has tagged me in this meme to share some highlights and lowlights from 2011.  The year was a pretty bloody good one all in all and I have to say with very few lows. So here’s my review per the required structure.

What was your happiest event?

As 2011 was the year I became a dad nothing really comes close for happiest event. That moment in the delivery suite when we discovered we had a daughter was magical, the days and months since have been tough but oh so rewarding. The first time she smiled, the first time she clapped, the way she bangs her feet on her chair when she’s enjoying what she eats. These are the moments you remember and the ones that can erase all those sleepless nights and crying.

What was the saddest thing to happen?

At the beginning of the year we found out that the lady of the manors mum had ovarian cancer, which was a pretty tough time. She began treatment just before Matilda was born so we were worried she wouldn’t be able to come near Matilda due to the chemotherapy drugs. But it worked out ok in the end and following a successful treatment is fingers crossed now in the clear

What was the most unlikely thing to happen that actually went ahead and did?

Hmmm maybe the lady of the manor getting pregnant again? If you’d told me at the start of the year that we’d have another baby on the way I would have laughed in your face.

Who let you down?

There can be only one candidate for this and that’s the England rugby team, I traveled to the other side of the world to watch that joke of a rugby team embarrass the nation. Professional players that didn’t have the balls to stand up and take ownership of their performance. No matter what the failings of the coaches they should have at least had some pride like the French did.

Who supported you?

Family, every single one of them. From gifts and ‘permanent loan’ of nursery furniture to emotional support and baby sitting. They may be 60 miles away but both sets of parents have been more than willing to drive down and help us out. What I value the most though is the non-judgmental support, they may have raised their own children (5 in my mums case) but they didn’t tell us what to do or say we were wrong. They gave advice and support which is exactly what we needed.

Tell us something you learned

You may think a new born baby has finished poo’ing, but it will always save up a little exra for that brief moment when it has no nappy on and then KAPOW, poo is on the carpet, your jeans/hands/jumper/hair and if you’re really lucky the wall behind you.

Tell us something that made you laugh

I was at a dinner party the other night and there was a 7ft penguin walking around, I thought to myself, that’ll break the ice.

Tell us one thing that made you cry

I don’t care what the question says I’m giving you 2 things; firstly watching Marley and Me, no dog owner can watch that and not cry. Secondly when I had a massive back spasm in my lower back in June. Within 10 minutes I couldn’t walk and spent the next 2 days lying on the lounge floor, the only time I moved was to crawl on all fours to the toilet. I have never known pain like it; in fact I think it was probably worse than giving birth. Certainly there wasn’t any gas and air.

Tell us 3 things your child did to make you proud

Firstly she is unequivocally my daughter, blonde hair, blue eyes and tall.

Secondly that she is the smiliest baby you will ever meet, she will flash anyone a smile who talks to her. I love that she seems to be an optimist and positive person like me

Thirdly that she is the noisiest baby in our NCT gang, put them all together and she’s the one chatting away, ‘talking’ to the other babies like she’s directing them. I hope she continues being so forthright and strong as she grows up.

Tell us one thing that made you proud of yourself

That we didn’t let having a baby stop us getting out, we didn’t put our life on hold, we got out and had a bloody amazing adventure in New Zealand. An adventure that wouldn’t have been the same without Matilda.

Tell us one challenge you overcame

Trying to not wake up first at night so I don’t have get up to Matilda. It was tough but I beat it, I may even have a little talent in this area I reckon.

Is there anything you would like to change about your life in 2012?

I’ve written a couple of posts on resolutions/plans for the year, the biggest thing we are going to change is having debt. It shall be all gone by the end of the year so we can live comfortably once the sprout arrives and maybe just maybe the lady of the manor can become a stay at home mum.

I also want to try and eat more seasonally, rather than buying the same food all year round simply because the supermarket is able to stock it.

So there you have it and I’d like to tag the following lovely people if they haven’t been already;

It’s a dads life

The Kitchen Mechanic

Cheetahs in my shoes

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