The joy of running

Finding great outdoor spaces for racing and chasing in the spring sunshine…

The joy of running

There are a number of things that Little Miss A does that seem to be an ingrained part of her personality. One is her love of running. It started pretty much as soon as she was walking and she’s been a speedy little thing ever since.

We’ve had lots of running around the living room, more often than not kitted out in a special ‘costpume’ consisting of running shoes (could be her slippers, could be her jelly shoes), a pink winter hat with flaps over the ears and sometimes goggles.

There’s only so much sprinting you can do in the house, of course. Better still is when we can find a big wide space outdoors and let her run free. The look of pure happiness on her face never fails to make me smile. It’s running for the sheer joy of running and the exhilaration and sense of freedom she feels is infectious.

We found two brilliant places for running this month.

The first was at a nearby National Trust property. As we wandered around, we came across a huge circular croquet lawn enclosed by tall hedges which made a perfect running track. This proved irresistible for Little Miss A, who ran all the way round a couple of times before challenging Mummy to a race. We both giggled madly as I chased after her. Puffed out after a few laps, I realised a) how unfit I am! and b) how much fun running can be, understanding some of the appeal to Little Miss A.

The second location is in our local park, at her current favourite play area there, the mud mounds. I’ve written about these before: small hills of compacted mud, that make an ‘offroad’ track for older kids to scoot or ride bikes around. We love them simply as an interesting place to explore. They were great when Little Miss A was mastering walking, challenging her balance as she navigated up and down the inclines. Now she has discovered that they are brilliant for running on!

The space is large enough to have a good sprint around and contained enough to be able to do laps…

Running track

There are gentle slopes alongside slightly steeper ‘hills’ to be scrambled up…

Running up hills

And enough mud and dirt to please my little messy monster girl, perfect for poking a stick in when in need of a break from racing…

Digging in mud

We had so much fun here on a beautiful spring day this week. Little Miss A incorporated some pretend play into her running, telling me that the mounds were her houses and I was the big bad wolf chasing her and blowing them down. She’s been doing the story of the Three Little Pigs at preschool and is fascinated by it. She loved turning this into a game of chase, hiding behind a slope until I had huffed and puffed and blown the house down, at which point she ran to find a new abode. She enjoyed it so much that some details from the original story were amended slightly: “This house is made of brick, Mummy, but the bricks aren’t stuck together so you can blow them really hardly…”

I’m sure Baby E wondered what on earth we were up to, as I pushed her up and down the mounds in her pushchair, running after her sister doing my best wolf growls. (Not to mention the other park users passing by!)

Chase

After a good play, we headed home for a snack, eyes shining and cheeks flushed from all the running around. I’m sure we’ll be making our way back there again soon…

Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Dreaming of holidays… #fiveforfriday

Following our recent weekend away, I’ve been reminiscing about some of the holidays I took BC (Before Children).

As I was writing about our weekend, it got me thinking about how different it is to go away with a baby/toddler in tow! I’ve been lucky enough to visit some amazing places, destinations that I can’t imagine doing right now with our young family. (That’s not to say you can’t travel with little ones; there are lots of people who do. But we’re not quite at the point of wanting to attempt long haul or anything too adventurous at the moment!)

It’s hard to choose an absolute favourite holiday but having given it some serious thought during a couple of nightfeeds, the ones below are probably my top five.

1. Canada – Toronto, Niagra Falls, Montreal, Quebec, Prince Edward Island
Oh, how I loved this whole holiday but most especially visiting Prince Edward Island. Where I’d wanted to visit since reading Anne of Green Gables as a child. Where the husband proposed. Definitely top of my ‘special holidays’ list.

Beautiful Prince Edward Island

2. New Zealand
I’ve got relatives in NZ and have made it over there three times. It’s beautiful. Best bits: colourful volcanic weirdness at Roturua; stunning scenery at Queenstown; amazing, pouring with rain boat trip on Milford Sound; beautiful Bay of Islands. When can I go again?

Milford Sound rain

3. Boston, Cape Cod and Maine
This was a brilliant, healing holiday following a tough time. I’d love to return one day. When I remember it I think of brownstones, boat trips, whales, wooden houses, white Aidorondack chairs, beautiful beaches, lots of fresh sea air. Oh, and Hurricane Earl, which we were more than a little worried about, being from the UK with no experience of what to do if caught in a hurricane (the Great Storm of 1987 doesn’t really count!).

Cape Cod amazing beaches

4. Croatia
Sailing around the islands off Croatia on a beautiful (crewed!) wooden sailing boat – just bliss. Best bits: sitting for hours on deck, occasionally managing to tear my eyes from the beautiful water and coastline to read a page of my book; atmospheric Dubrovenik; diving off the boat for ice cold swimming; great company in fellow passengers, amazing food.

Shadow wave

5. Skopolos/Skiathos
The words ‘Greek islands’ do something to me. These are my absolute favourites so far, especially Skopolos, reached by boat. Cobbled streets, whitewashed buildings, breathtaking views, boat trips, cool bars with cushions on the floor for seats, delicious seafood… I could go on. This holiday came when I was very stressed at work and feeling low about my love life. And about a month or two before I met my husband!

Greece beautiful house

OK, I’m feeling all travel tingly thinking about these amazing holidays. I want to jump on a plane and go back to each one RIGHT NOW!

What trips would be on your favourites list?

#fiveforfriday

#fiveforfriday is my weekly round up of all sorts of bits and bobs – from blog posts I’ve been reading to themed crafts and activities to favourite products to the random things I’ve been pondering!

The List

A weekend away with kids

So, we’re back from our first weekend away as a family of four and it’s safe to say that the husband and I are pretty knackered!

Daffodils

Baby E has been teething (we think) and spent two out of the three nights not sleeping, including one long period of inconsolable screaming.

We carted there and back what felt like enough supplies and luggage to survive an apocalypse, even though we were only away Friday to Monday.

There were a couple of stressful navigational moments, plus a dinner disaster when we couldn’t figure out how to work the oven in our cottage, resulting in tea being an hour late.

Both kids ended up falling over, with Little Miss A sporting a bruised cheek almost from the point of arrival. Baby E wanted to use her newly acquired crawling and pulling up to standing skills at every available moment, generally in the most unsuitable and unsafe locations she could find, meaning that opportunities to sit still in the cottage were few and far between.

With all that, you have to wonder why on earth we would leave our perfectly nice house, which is perfectly geared up for our family’s needs and situated in a perfectly lovely part of the country, for a weekend away that most definitely could not be described as a relaxing break.

Well, relaxing it may not have been but it was fun despite the hard bits. From Little Miss A’s excitement to cosying up all together in front of the fire to animal feeding to playing in the on-site soft play to exploring new places together, we packed in a whole weekend of family experiences and memory making.

These are memories that the husband and I will always treasure, such as Baby E’s very first swim. We had the on-site swimming pool all to ourselves, which was wonderful. While Baby E bobbed up and down in my arms, her sister treated us to twirls in her rubber ring and squeals of delight as her daddy dived under the water or pulled her along on a giant float. It was a highlight of our weekend and all four of us had huge grins on our faces as we splashed around together.

Or Little Miss A looking like such a big girl on a pony ride around the courtyard, holding on and balancing all by herself. She risked a wave as she trotted past her daddy, shouting out proudly: “Look at me!”, a perfect mixture of concentration and happiness on her face.

When we came to drive home, she didn’t want to leave, declaring holiday to be ‘so much fun’. We had to agree. I’m looking forward to doing it all again in the summer – although next time we take our secret weapon, the grandparents, along too so hopefully we get to squeeze in a smidgen of relaxation as well!


Under the sea discovery bottle

Make a beautiful under the sea discovery bottle for toddlers…

Under the sea discovery bottle

This is probably my favourite discovery bottle that I’ve made for Little Miss A. I find it really theraputic to swish the contents around and she enjoys rolling it along the floor and spotting the various items as they float into view.

How I made it:

  • Take one clean plastic bottle and part fill with water
  • Add a few drops of blue food colouring
  • And a spoonful or two of play sand
  • Drop in a number of objects to suggest the sea. I used green curling ribbon for seaweed and some shells of different shapes and sizes. I also cut out a couple of fish shapes from orange craft foam
  • Top up with water
  • Secure lid tightly (I used brown tape but you can hot glue it down too)

The bottle is ready for swirling, shaking, investigating and rolling!

We have this out all the time and have also used it as part of our under the sea themed book nooks and for other watery themed play :)


Soapy spring cleaning outdoors!

Bubbles, water and spring sunshine make the perfect ingredients for some easy afternoon outdoor play…

Soapy spring cleaning

I have always loved springtime but, now I’m a parent, I feel like turning cartwheels at the first whiff of warmer weather. Why? Because I know that my life at home with children is about to get that little bit easier. For a start, being able to go out without having to wrap up like Michelin men means we can shave valuable minutes off the mission that is Getting Out Of The House. Plus it is much simpler to entertain little ones when you can stay and play outdoors for a good while without extremities going numb with cold. And, best of all, you don’t even have to venture too far afield – the back garden, in fact, was as far as we went this afternoon.

With the sun shining and our deck lovely and warm, I decided it was a perfect time to get Little Miss A to do some spring cleaning outside. I set her up with a bowl of water (with lots of bubbles for good measure), a scrubbing brush, a washing up sponge and her plastic chairs, table and step for washing. She couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

Soapy spring cleaning fun

The chairs and table actually did need a bit of a clean. The table had some grass cuttings stuck onto the top from our recent afternoon playing in the garden, so Little Miss A got to work on it, giving it a very thorough scrub with both the brush and the sponge.

Outdoor spring cleaning toddler fun

As she moved onto the chairs and the step, she started to sing a little song she had made up:

Scrub a dub dub
Rub a dub dub
Cleaning cleaning
Cleaning is fun!

She added some verses as she went along, which were basically a narration of what she was doing (“And now I scrub the step so cleeeeeaaaannnnn…”). I was just inside the house, rocking her sister to sleep in the baby carrier and giggling to myself as I listened. I just love how she sings or narrates her actions these days :)

Spring cleaning

Once she’d given the table, chairs and step a good clean, she wiped them dry with a towel (the one I’d left for her to dry herself with before coming back into the house, but nevermind!). She then moved onto the decking before deciding that everything had been completed to her satisfaction. As she headed indoors, she gave me a happy smile and declared that she needed a snack and a drink after all her hard work!

Outdoor spring cleaning

Little Miss A loves cleaning at the moment, so this was a great activity to keep her entertained this afternoon, and one I can see us repeating over the spring and summer with all sorts of plastic toys and equipment. The list is endless… When the weather warms up properly, it will also be a lovely activity to modify for Baby E to join in with too.


Book love #fiveforfriday

I love nothing more than escaping into a good book. Even if I can no longer while away a lazy Sunday morning in bed with a book, I still prioritise reading, generally at least a few pages before I go to sleep. And often now during nightfeeds, thanks to the Kindle app on my phone!

These are some of my favourites from the last twelve months…

1. Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Laini Taylor
Loved it, loved it. Devoured it. Loved it. One of the best fantasy books (and series) I’ve read.

2. What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty
I found this a really intriguing, easy and enjoyable read.

3. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
I was a bit late to this party! And had already watched the first two films. But I liked all the series, although maybe not the last one so much.

4. Remarkable Creatures, Tracy Chevalier
This was a fascinating read about fossil hunter Mary Anning. It made me want to head to Lyme Regis with Little Miss A to see if we can find any fossils together, and I’d love to poke around the museum there. We don’t live too far away, so one for our days out list this summer…

5. Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
There is something fascinating about the Tudor period and Henry VIII in particular. This is a wonderful peek into the politics of his court, focusing on Cromwell and the masterminding of Anne Boleyn’s removal. I found it much easier to read than Wolf Hall (although I’m determined to revisit that one).

What books have you been reading lately?

#fiveforfriday

#fiveforfriday is my weekly round up of all sorts of bits and bobs – from blog posts I’ve been reading to themed crafts and activities to favourite products to the random things I’ve been pondering!


Things I miss from my pre-mum days

Being a mum is hands down the best thing I’ve done with my life but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a nostalgic moment or two for my pre-parent days. The ones where I (hardly ever) doubted I was going to get less than a full night’s sleep. When I had bags of time to myself that I could waste without doing anything much in particular. When I could hold an entire, articulate conversation without forgetting what I was talking about half way through.

After a few years of doing this mummy thing, I’ve finally allowed myself to admit there are things I miss from before – and that this doesn’t make me a bad mum or mean I love my children any less. Even while knowing that I would never swap what I have now, there are moments (usually following a few rough nights and/or tantrumy days) when my former life takes on something of a rosy glow.

So, perhaps it’s time to examine exactly what I really miss from that heady, carefree time…

1. Sleep
The obvious one but all too true. It’s been around four years now since I had a proper, deep, amazing night’s sleep and oh how I miss it. Even when our sleep settled down after baby number one, it was never quite the same; I will wake at the merest hint of a rustle from Little Miss A’s room these days, or a random noise in the house that could either be the central heating or a burglar/pack of wild animals trying to get in.

2. Huge long lay ins
I was really very good at laying in at the weekend. I loved that luxurious feeling of waking up and realising there was no work to go to and I could just snuggle back down and doze for another hour or two. Or get a coffee and some toast and laze in bed with a book. Or watch a bit of Saturday Kitchen tucked up under the covers. Or cuddle up to the husband for a while. Sigh. I think I might miss my lay ins even more than a full night’s sleep!

3. My boobs
Even when I lost all the baby weight first time round, my breasts stayed about a cup size larger than pre-pregnancy, which was, quite frankly, annoying as I was completely satisfied with their size before. Will they ever be the same again? I’m yet to find out for sure but I fear not.

4. Heels
Aside from the practicalities of flats for running around after a toddler, I physically can’t manage heels for any length of time any more without them killing my back, maybe a legacy of SPD in pregnancy. I wasn’t even your stereotypical ‘love to go shoe shopping and own about a billion pairs’ girl, so it’s surprising how much it bothers me. There are a pair of knee high boots, a pair of ankle boots and some gorgeous sandals that I mourn wearing in particular, all with what now seem to be ridiculously high heels – how did I wear them all day? – and all tucked carefully away in the hope I will be able to reclaim them one day.

5. Spontaneous nights out
The ones when you get home from work and can’t be bothered to cook and decide to just pop out for dinner instead. Or when you’ve gone out for what you think will be a quick drink and it turns into the most unexpectedly, brilliantly fun night ever. When the conversation is witty and the wine flowing (or the flowing wine makes you think the conversation has been witty, at any rate). When the food and company is good and can be lingered over without any thought of your toddler providing a 6.30am wake up call. We still do attempt the odd spontaneous dinner out as a family but it takes considerably more effort and it’s not quite the same without all the wine when you have to be back by 6/7pm for bedtime.

6. Conversations with my husband
Real, proper conversations about life, the universe and everything. As opposed to attempted conversations punctuated with interruptions to deal with a toddler, where one or both of us end up loosing track of what we’re saying and give up. Or attempted conversations after the day is done when really we’re both so exhausted we’d rather just cuddle up and zonk out in front of the TV.

7. Whole chunks of time doing nothing much in particular
What did I used to do with my evenings and weekends? I wasn’t out partying all hours, had a select few hobbies and didn’t spend a lot of time being organised doing practical chores and errands. I can only conclude I wasted a lot of time faffing around, maybe watching some TV, maybe keeping my books and CDs in alphabetical order, maybe taking long hot soaks in the bath with candles and relaxing music. Who knows? Free time now is at such a premium that the idea of not using it productively seems both wasteful and wonderfully decadent at the same time.

8. My really nice coats
I have a couple of lovely winter coats, the kind that are fairly smart and look flattering and aren’t waterproof but that’s alright because you have an umbrella and don’t spend much time in the rain anyway. They are packed carefully away with my heels. Now I wear my ‘mum’ coat: waterproof and warm (i.e. padded and unflattering) as I seem to be exposed to the elements much more regularly these days, usually tussling with carseats and pushchairs. And with a hood because I need both hands to manage the toddler, baby and all necessary equipment.

9. Sleep
I know I included this one already but I miss it so much I think it’s worth mentioning twice. Sleep deprivation isn’t used as a form of torture for no reason…

What do you miss (trivial or otherwise!) from your pre-children days?


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