Recap – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Christmas II (aka Boxing Day)

You made it. The last chapter of my long overdue novella, the Christmas of Yesteryear. Let’s do this!

 

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Christmas Eve was chilled. We hit up the soft play to run some energy out of the littles and instead managed to cave to buying a slush and paid for it by having them totally ruin a lovely game of penguin ludo.

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We cut our losses and put on the jammies and the Christmas films til bedtime.

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The kids got the tray out and filled it with treat for Santa and the reindeer.

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The placed it carefully under the tree…

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… next to their pillow cases for Santa to fill.

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We went to bed and the next morning around 5am Sandy woke up, I went in to cuddle him and he fell back asleep in my arms. About half six he roused again and I saw his little face all pouty by the door in our bedroom telling me, “Mummy, you went away! You left me all. on. my. own!” I asked him “Sandy, what day is it?” and he replied “Christmas Eve”. “Not any more Sandy, it’s…” “…CHRISTMAS DAY!!!” he realised, “has Santa been?!” I told him to check the stockings we’d hung on the door frame and right enough the big man had delivered. Sandy ran into Roslyn’s room as we listened to hear him say “Roslyn! Roslyn! Santa’s been! He has filled our stockings! Wake up!” and she dutifully did, running through, rubbing her eyes with one hand, cradling her stocking in the other. As is tradition we opened our stockings in our bed before heading downstairs to see what had been left under the tree…

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…they were both very pleased to see that Santa and the reindeer had partaken in refreshments.

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Roslyn was delighted with her main gift – a new baby, as requested.

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Sandy finally got the shuttle part of his Playmobile space set he’d been after since his birthday.

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And of course the packaging was well loved too.

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This year Christmas was split over two days for us so everything took a far more leisurely pace. It was lovely to be able to relax in the house not having to rush out.

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They each found a bell from Santa’s reindeer’s harnesses, a la Polar Express, after being captivated by the film this year.

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Sandy was delighted and it seemed to make up for not having been invited on the actual train in the night!

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We got dressed for the day and snapped a family picture before heading out to Stuart’s parents house.

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The kids were thoroughly spoiled and delighted by their gifts there…

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It was lovely to be able to take our time at Stuart’s parents house too.

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We got our annual Findlay/MacNicol Group shot again – a cracker (pun intended).

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After Roslyn’s nap we headed home to meet up with my parents and brothers for a mini Christmas dinner before the main meal the next day.

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We got a little group shot here too but I think the candid one is better!

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Christmas dinner was a hit thanks to the team effort of Jamie (starter) Mum (trimmings) and me (bird and dessert). And the drinks were faithfully covered by Pa.

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Check out anna and elsa’s subtle photobomb in the above picture ^^

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I was especially proud of my pudding. I love the look, smell and general tradition of Christmas pudding but just can’t abide the taste. I want to like it, but I don’t. Peel isn’t the bit you eat, IMO. So I recreated a steamed pudding – honey and cinnamon – and put in charms too, like my Gran used to. It was perfect and Sandy kept going on about how much he loved it which meant a lot.

The next day (Boxing Day) we headed to Gourock and my Aunts’ new flat where we partied it up again…

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Class Acts.

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We got another fabulous family picture too!

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Dinner was perfect and we all had such a nice time. It was great to spread the fun over two days and get to spend more time with everyone.

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We plan to do the same next year and I’m sure it will be just as good.

Well, there’s the end of the saga, festive feeling in February can recede now, and I’m happy not to force Tartan on the kids again til St. Andrews. Maybe.

Recap – Ice Skating and Edinburgh’s Christmas

I lied. Teasing of pictures of the big day and all you get are some of us skidding around on frozen water. But also…

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… this. Exhibit A: How I don’t put her up for adoption after she is a complete buttock. Which she is. Often. Daily.

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Anyways, off to Edinburgh. We went by train because, you know, driving into Edinburgh is like cycling to the moon, which sadly broke my vow never to travel by Scotrail again (the details of I will spare you from, lucky you).

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We got there early and hit up Costa for some hot chocolate and babychinos. Notice in this picture how my baby looks about twenty (wtaf?)

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Aaaaand back to 2. Phew.

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I’d booked for just me and Sandy to go on the ice and at first this was vindicated because he found it pretty tricky to get around on the little skatey attachments he had.

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But soon after we nicked a penguin aid and realised he could stand on the other side so I could fly round with him knocking little children and the elderly out the way (jk)…

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…Rozzie got in on the action too.

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As we went round little white blobs started falling out of the sky and I was all “oh my god Sandy it’s snowing… JUST FOR US!!!” and it wasn’t until after I realised it was eight degrees and the snow was fake foam pumped out for ambiance. Ah well, it was still amazing.

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After this we meet lovely Emma for lunch and hit up the Christmas market with her, going on the big wheel in Edinburgh for the first time.

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Stuart made a good effort at not looking like he hated it.

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Me, on the other hand…

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It was a great day, perfected of course by a cancelled train home and therefore a nap for Roslyn and my feeling vindicated in how crap Scotrail are.

Recap – Sandy’s Nursery Show and Santa Visit

Yes it is February and I am only just getting around to posting our festive period pictures. Insert usual excuses here. I know looking at Christmas pictures two months past the event isn’t everyone’s idea of fun but we got a new DSLR after our old faithful was stolen on holiday so they are good quality and super cute hooray!

On 16th December Sandy had his nursery show and despite being offered the part of a shepherd he decided he wanted to be an elf, like last year. It was super considerate of him to work with his mother’s obsession with direct year to year comparison pictures (he’s an enabler).

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So he donned the elf costume again – this year the even cuter cut off trouser one, which presumably fits the older of the nursery kids. Last year we were so impressed with him because, baby that he was, he was brave enough to stand on the stage and he even swayed a bit to the music. This year we’d seen him slyly practicing moves to certain christmas songs when they came on (All I Want and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town) so had an inkling that we’d be in for even more action, but we were never prepared for this…

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He was by far the most accurate and involved one on the stage, and I don’t say that to put down any of the other kids who were great, I say it to highlight the peculiarity of his sudden enthusiasm for being centre of attention, considering he is usually so introverted. We were so proud of him, he knew every move and sang every word.

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# You better not pout, you better not cry…#

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He was incredible.

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And ridiculously cute.

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And totally committed to his craft!

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Perfect Elf!

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Afterwards he got pretty tired of all the compliments and went back to his wallflower ways. He certainly chose a great time to shine.

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It’s crazy to think that next Christmas it will be Roslyn’s stage debut, and scary too; she’ll probably demand to sing solos.

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The other nursery event for Christmas was on his second last day, a special visitor.

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Sandy got on his special Christmas shirt for the event.

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And Roslyn was quite jazzed too.

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His face when he spotted us in the audience… sob sob heart melty.

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Each child went up when called and Sandy was second to last, he waited patiently, if excitedly, and when his name was called he was so excited to get a gift that he didn’t even stay still for the picture before launching himself at me to tell me…

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The perfect run up to Christmas!

Next up in the Wow This is Overdue blog post series, Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day. Don’t get too excited though, it might take til next Christmas to find time to post it :S

Childminding – Our First Three Months

So it has been quite a while since I posted on the blog… and of course the reason for this silence is that I’ve jumped straight into the deep end of my new career as a childminder. There is so little time to stop and do things like blogging so I’ve had all these pictures and ideas and activities to share but not a spare minute to actually do just that. Finally I have a little shred of time so here is a quite round up of the past three months.

On the whole it has gone really well. My mindees are lovely and not at all hard to mind and I’m coping with the tos and fros of the school and nursery runs too. Roslyn on occasion has been a little miffed about being woken early from her nap to go pick up the kids but I think that will disappear soon as she now seems intent on dropping her nap altogether.

Luckily for me the time of year I started childminding at was chock full of events that make it easy to plan and execute fun activities for my four charges. It started with Halloween…

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We made some pumpkin decorated biscuits…

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… and carved pumpkins!

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They turned out super scary! They were out front on the night glowing creepily, and my mindees later took theirs home to do the same.

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We also had a sensory bucket full of halloween items and water beads – my newest find thanks to my friend Faye. They are like squishy marbles that grow from seeds to balls in water.

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Strangely hard not to touch! The kids loved them.

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At home my three year old mindee had been challenging me to help him build the biggest train tracks…

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… and been beating my at our Orchard Toys toddler games!

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On Fridays Roslyn and my little mindee go to bookbug while Sandy and our bigger mindee are at nursery and school.

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For Guy Fawkes we did some safe sparkling which was fun, if a little damped by the rain!

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And my mindee made me a lovely birthday card 🙂

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Neither of my kids’ or my mindees’ food choices are particularly varied so we created a food chart. Every time I offer a new food they get a sticker for giving it a try and when they get five stickers they get to pick a fun activity to do one evening. We’ve been hitting up the soft play as the rewards flew in, while some foods have now made a regular appearance on the menu such as green beans, tortellini pasta and sweet potato chips! A total success and we are now on our second chart!

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One of the ways I have been offering such new food is through interactive dinner prep such as top your own pizza night!

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Having a mindee of similar age to Sandy is great, they get on well and are little buddies always wanting to hold hands.

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Roslyn at bookbug pretending to be a sleeping scarecrow!

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Since the mindees started the art wall has flourished, with barely enough frames to accomodate the amount of art generated in a day, never mind a week!

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Christmas lights spotting season begins!

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And also rainbow spotting!

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Our oldest mindee makes up her own games and the little kids join in. This was a toy collection for a pet shop game illustrating the shameful number of plush toys my kids own!!

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We have been getting in on some science activities too, and child led learning. My oldest mindee had seen videos on YouTube of watermelon challenges, where a family were putting rubber bands round a watermelon and the pressure made it explode. We did our own experiment in the garden which was a success… so much fun!

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For Road Safety week we practiced safely crossing the road, then inside made our own lollipops and role played crossings too.

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It got chilly in November on the school run so we needed to think of more indoor activities…

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… such as visiting the library to use their drawing wall and get some books out.

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The festive season started and we have had lots of fun, starting with a walk to Dalzell Estate to collect holly to make a wreath.

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We made fake snow from shaving foam and corn flour and made our own mini snowmen…

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… so cute!

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Much crafting has been taking place…

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… and also another sensory bucket, this time an antarctic one with ice bergs (made by freezing water in freezer bags!)

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Some puddle splashing has taken place on the nursery run too!

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We made a gingerbread house, FROM SCRATCH! One of my personal best baking accomplishments, with help from my brother, Jamie.

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The kids were very happy to help decorate, and of course, demolish in due course.

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Roslyn on the nursery run.

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On the last day before christmas we had a mini christmas dinner with crackers!

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And of course we did lots of cooking and baking too.

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In the holidays I took a week off but got my mindees for three full days, rather than their hours spread over 5, so we got the chance to explore. We visited Dynamic Earth and then Almond Valley.

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Roslyn’s favourite bit? When the big pig pooed. Obvs.

So yes, all in all childminding is going well. There are ups and downs, and financially times are tight until Sandy goes to school in August and I can mind more under 5s, but it is worth it to be at home with my kids and get to work by being creative and playing all day – my favourite things (child at heart!). So bear with me if the updates are few and far between, we are having too much fun to stop just now!!

Holiday Photo Shoot

I handed in my notice on Tuesday! I officially have only two more days work and I am a childminder! What’s more, I have two lovely mindees! They came on Wednesday for a settling in session where we played, got to know eachother and they stayed for dinner. Sandy and Rozzie were happy to have some friends to play with we all got on great. They will start on 24th October. So I’m finishing up my final few days of work before getting to work from home and be with my kids again!

In the last post I mentioned our family photo shoot on our holiday so here are the pictures:

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Our little family. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have these three lovely people.

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Sandy was all smiles for the shoot, he totally loved it!

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Look at his little grin!!

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Rozzie too had a wee smile, at me rather than the photographer though!

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These two just crack me up.. they totally sum up their characters and relationship.

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They were more than happy to jump for a picture.

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And not to forget us as well as those wee beauties!

Happy times, I’m missing it already and scheming for our next travels, hopefully next year! For now though, winter is coming (thrones stylee) and it’s all about jackets, blankets and hot chocolate!

Family Holiday! Lanzarote 2016

We are back from our holiday! A week in the sun with two veeeery white toddlers, their even whiter Daddy and four hour flights over bedtime. It could have been a recipe for disaster but with a little careful planning, decent entertaining and a lot of patience we had a great time with only a few bumps in the road along the way. Here’s the story:

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When we booked the holiday we very excited and certain on the resort we picked, however we were less than pleased with the flight times we could find. The best priced were both taking off right over bed time and I just couldn’t imagine the kids coping with staying up til 2am once we got to the hotel, or managing to sleep on the plane. Nonetheless we went with them, the only other option involved waking up at 3am to go to the airport and cost £200 more to boot. So we sucked it up.

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The kids were super excited the morning of the flight so we took them to the soft play to try and tire them out. Roslyn napped as usual and Sandy didn’t. We’d hoped he would fall asleep on the drive to the airport but he didn’t; he was too excited. When we got to the airport we sent Stuart off to the longstay car park and loaded the bags onto a trolley then did a comedy shuffle with falling buggies and bouncing children to get them checked it. Feeling much lighter we played at the kids bit at the gate before boarding. Sandy exhibited his famous dance moves with the kinect xbox thing and Roslyn her famous ability to eat nothing and not starve. The kids were super excited to get their backpacks on and board the plane.

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On board we settled down with our host of child taming devices and creations. I spent a decent bit of time making up colouring sheets and dot-to-dots which Roslyn entertained for a minute and Sandy disregarded completley (are they really my children??). The things they liked best were – of course – the ipads, the seatbelts on the plane and swapping seats every 11 seconds. Roslyn was not best pleased when told she had to keep the belt on and sit down. We taxied down the runway quite happily with Sandy trying over and again to time his “3..2..1..lift off” to the plane’s movement. He got it eventually and then proceeded to make many comments that the airflight-phobic could find very disconcerting:

“Mummy, the engine has stopped working”

“Look, we are going to land in the water”

“Why is the plane falling down Mummy?”

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Top child entertaining device? Window Gel Stickers. Seriously useful. They also stick to the backs of the seats/tray tables/people’s hair etc. Thank you pinterest.

So we had quite a lot of fun times with the kids bopping about, watching 30 seconds of every programme downloaded to iplayer and generally demanding new toys for a few minutes before ditching them in favour of something else, reuslting in the contents of a very full rucksack sprawled all over the floor. Eventually though giddiness became crabbiness and it was time to attempt the impossible, get two hyper toddlers to sleep on a plane. Not just a plane though, a Ryanair plane, with very little room, no spare seats, trolleys full of essentials (mac lipsticks and cartons of 1000 cigarettes) flying up and down every 5 minutes, and hostesses trying to sell scratchcards by shouting.

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It’d be nice to say that we managed to cuddle them each up on our laps and they dozed off happily, only rousing at landing with a smile. Instead Sandy demanded at least two whole seats to sprawl out on then spend the best part of an hour wriggling about to get comfy. At least he did sleep though. Roslyn decided to lie in my arms demanding to be fed or flipping her head to the other side for an eternity before we gave up.

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1 out of 2 isn’t bad though, is it?

Sandy had a bit of earache on the way down which combined with being just woken up made him a bit cranky, but as soon as he saw the lights out the window below he perked up, getting very excited when we bounced down onto the runway in Lanzarote at 11:30 at night. We collected our bags and the kids got their second wind, running around like banshees as we tried to collect all our stuff. We found our transfer bus and got on, little bops in the middle dancing like a raver to Spanish disco until she finally crashed, well past midnight, lying on her Daddy’s leg.

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We rolled into our resort (THB Tropical Island) around 1am and got checked in while the kids got their third wind and we got lost trying to find our apartment. We finally found ourselves wearily reciting Mog and the Granny nearer 2am to the littles before tucking them in and praying for a good long lie.

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We were rewarded for our resiliance the next morning when Sandy came bouncing into our bedroom from his sofabed at 9am (a VERY LONG LIE for Sandy) smiling full of cuddles. We were treated to these wake up calls by one or the other of them every morning and we didn’t have a wake up earlier than 7.30am the whole week which in itself is a miracle. The kids were up for getting out to the pool right away and you can see why based on the view out of our room:

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The resort was lovely. Among other features it hosted 16 pools, 8 play water fountains, four play parks, three turtles, one soft play and a volcano water feature turning into a stream and ending in a pond full of fish of various sizes. We spend most of our time at our deep pool (pictured), the kids pool (round the corner) and the “robot splash” as Sandy called it – splash/water fountain area.

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Here is Sandy having fun in the little pool near our “hotel” or “home” as the kids were calling the apartment.

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Roslyn wasn’t so keen on the pools at first. She liked the idea of them, but she freaked out that it wasn’t as warm as a bath. But she grew to it over the course of the week and was fully immersed with me in the big pool soon enough!

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We took two floats on holiday. One big blow up rubbed ring type seat and a lilo which Tate gave us. Stuart blew up one the morning we got there but we didn’t need to do the other because the couple next to us who were leaving the day we arrived donated a silver lilo as they went. Then over the course of the holiday we inherited a dolphin, donated by another Scottish family who saw a Dad of a rough boy not controlling his son as he battered Sandy with an inflatable shark. She told Stuart to take the dolphin to defend Sandy from the shark boy.

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On holiday, generally, we were the kids. My memories of sun holidays involved constantly being in the pool and begging one of the adults to stop lying in the sun reading and come play. On our holiday it was Stuart and I in the pool or the sea, or making sandcastles and digging holes, while Sandy and Roslyn wimpered about the breeze making them cold having been in the pool, or that they were all covered in sand. On the beach. (I know).

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Luckily there was always ice cream to cheer them up. Being all inclusive was great. It meant when Roslyn didn’t eat her dinner it wasn’t costing us an arm and a leg for no nourishment. She was able to pick. And of course she picked very little of actual sustinence. Mostly grated cheese and bread sticks. Nonetheless Sandy tried some new things – sweetcorn, spaghetti and pasta in sauce. A big deal for him. At least Stuart and I were able to enjoy the full array of food on offer.

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Here they are entertaining themselves at the rep station. We didn’t have a rep (woohoo!) because we booked on loveholidays.com which was great. It was a lot cheaper and the four star hotel was brilliant; I can’t think of a single complaint. It puts it together like a package for you – the flight, hotel and transfer – but they are all seperate so cost a lot less. The only logisitical thing I will change next time is to hire a car – it’d just be much better for visiting places.

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The kids routines changed while we were away, which was sparked by the super late night when we arrived. They woke at 9am the next day and stayed up late the next evening. The late nights (bed about 8-9pm) and long lies (between 7.30 and 9.00am) were nice because we could explore our resort in the evenings when it got cooler and enjoy the absolute luxury of sleeping to a normal hour. I mean, when we woke up breakfast was actually ON. Normally the kids necessitate waiting two hours between their super early rising and the start of normal people waking up.

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One morning we were asleep and I sort of woke up, facing Stuart I looked at him and he had his arms out over my head. It turned around and there was Roslyn, just standing in the doorway watching us. It is really sweet to have her coming through in the morning as she never does at home. She was on a rollaway floor bed though so happily jumped off and on to run through to us.

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We headed to the beach on our second morning at the resort. It was a simple ten minute walk involving hats being removed repeatedly, toys thrown out the buggy, a lack of lowered kerbs and a lot of African sun. We only discovered many days later there was a much faster route without so many problematic crossings to make, ah well.

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On the first day we had gone just to scope out the beach but of course as soon as we were there we just let the kids go for it, which meant Sandy’s shorts getting a tiny bit wet in the sea and him whining about not having dry clothes a lot. Delightful.

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Rozzie was quite happy. She wanted to go to the shops first apparently so we went for a walk and she dropped her woody toy (pictured) over a wall into the sea below. Bye bye woody, don’t think buzz will be saving you this time.

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At the beach itself she was quite content to have her servants make her sandcastle after sandcastle to knock over.

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We returned to the beach properly the next morning and made a real go of it. I tried making mega sandcastles with moats and bridges but that proved futile due to the presence of Rozzilla, so instead we did a favourite of my Dad’s – digging a pit. We dug a big pit in the sand and waited for the tide to fill it. Roslyn called it her paddling pool and was much happier with the warm still water in it, than the cool moving waves of the sea.

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Rozzie also made a friend, as children do. A French baby boy toddled over and started playing so she and he were content to dig and throw sand about while Sandy and Stuart jumped waves.

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Back to the resort and this happened (above). Adorable, no? No. This? This was a BIG mistake. Sandy napping would help him enjoy himself more, not be as tired, get to stay up later, surely? All it did was make him the world’s most cranky child. Seriously, when he woke from that nap all hell broke loose and we vowed never to let him nap again. Rozzie napped well though and I made the most of the free time in a way only a mother can…

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Rock n roll.

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At dinner we enjoyed the ridiculous amount of (strangley foamy) desserts on offer and Sandy and Roslyn continued with their diet of exclusivley white coloured foods.

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One of my favourite times of day was the evenings. 6-8 after dinner, a time even at home when the kids are content. It must be tiredness but not overtiredness and full bellies which makes them just that little less whiney. Add extra holiday sugar to the mix and they were full of the joys of life, exploring the streets, looking for cats to befriend, and running free and safe in the slightly cooler evening.

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Both kids were quite perplexed that at the resort we were allowed to walk on the road. Sandy was satisfied with my explanation that it wasn’t a real road for cars, but a pretend road, and so he was safe. For Roslyn it wasn’t so simple; in fact, nothing was simple. She’s gotten to that stereotypical phase of toddlerhood which, strangely, Sandy never entered. The “why” phase.

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“Mummy, why walking on the road?”
“Because it isn’t a road with cars on it”
“Why?”
“Because it is in our resort and there are no cars, just people”
“Why?”
“Because it is safer”
“Why?”
“I just told you”
“…Mummy?”
“If you say why I might lose it Roslyn”
“Why?”

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Of course this happened repeatedly on holiday and beyond and along with the close second most annoying phrase, “what you doin’?” Notably when it is incredibly obvious: “Mummy?” *me pushing hoover over the carpet* “what you doin’?” Ah the joys!

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One of my best memories of the holiday was Volcano dancing. The Volcano is a big water feature which looks like an errupting volcano at the top and becomes a stream winding downhill with a path to follow and little bridges to cross it as it flows. It runs into a pond at the end full of fish. At the top it mimics one of the volcanic mountains in the background and makes for cool pictures. The coolest of which I do not have (more on that later)

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Sandy is very into space right now, as anyone who knows him will be well familiar with. He loves espcially space music which is pretty much any atomospheric music which can describe a space scene. It all started with my Dad who made a cd of ambient music inspired by the solar system. He loved it. But now we have expanded it and choose some of our music which we like (sneaky) and say it is space music. Luckily if you are a fan of experimental or progressive music this is particularly easy. His favourite is a band called the Mars Volta (the name being one important factor) whose progressive metal inspire great stories of the volcanoes on mars and flying through the storms of jupiter. The quiet bits are orbiting the planets and the noisy bits getting stuck in the storm, and the guitar noises are the aliens speaking. We facilitated this but he has run with it and it is a pleasure to see him rocking out to it, singing into his hand-microphone. Never more than when it is atop the resort volcano, dancing in the warm wind, with Lanzarote’s semi-lunar landscape in the background.

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We had such nice evenings exploring. It really made us feel as though we were through the majority of the constraints of babyhood. The times when you just have to give up your whims and drop plans because they were too small to cope with a day full of activities yet. They needed sleep and consistency and the comforts of home. But now we are almost there, with becoming more self-sufficient, and us able to be adults. We were able to wander at night, or swim while they played, or sleep while they slept. It was nice to be a bit normal again.

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The holiday on the whole was fabulous. We only had one day which was less than great. It started with Sandy getting a suspected UTI, so we had to try and find a doctor. Of course there was the hotel information leaflet which had a doctor on site 10:30-11:30 daily. Excellent we thought, and went to see. There was a family ahead of us who went in first (after the doctor strolled up slowly at 10:45) and came out a minute later. The mum came over to us and reported that the doctor charged £120 euros for a consultation, never mind treatment, and wouldn’t take a health card. So we moved on to a pharmacy to see if they could help and luckily they directed us to the public health centre where we waited for an hour and a half then Sandy was seen, which is a pretty great service considering it often takes far longer to get an appointment back home often.

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The next thing we did was leg it to the bus station because we were going on an outing. The day before we had gone and booked a 3 hour coach tour to visit Jameos Del Agua – Lanzarote’s famous cave with Albino crabs. I’d planned on booking Cuevos de la Verde which I’d been to before instead because I thought Stuart would love it more but the woman put me off it. She was one of those ex-pats with Spanish spoken without a hint of effort to accent it other than in her southern English tones. She told me that the kids wouldn’t cope with the caves – which is ridiculous because I know my kids, not her. She told me that I wouldn’t be able to get the buggy in the caves (as if I seriously expected to be taking a buggy down there). I finally managed to convince her that yes my children would like the caves and yes we were all able to walk and she helpfully told me where to meet the coach in the next town, Puerto Del Carmen, emphasising several times that it was a great place to go because it had a McDonalds. Seriously.

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Anyway we made our bus and got to the coach and were on our way to the caves with a lovely Canarian guide and a baby Roslyn who slept happily on my leg like the good little girl she is (most of the time). We made it to the caves and descended. I laughed as we waited to go to the single toilet, down a narrow flight of stairs carved into the cave wall itself. A woman came out and said “oh, god, there’s not enough space down here, is there?” as if the natural formation of the cave should have taken into consideration the needs of tourists millions of years later. It made sense the way the woman selling the tour had spoken to me then, considering this was her average punter!

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The kids loved the cave and would have surely loved the green caves too – part of the reason I wish we’d hired a car and gone to both! They crouched down at the edge of the water and watched the tiny Albino crabs at one of only three places in the world to see them. They glowed in the water and scuttled close to us, blind and unaware of the danger coming their way as Stuart’s foot entered the water, sending the crabs into a little flurry crawling away!

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The water was so still Stuart thought he was stepping onto a lower rock to get a close up picture. Sandy found this all rather amusing!

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We got some beautiful pictures to go with all the other lovely moments we had captured. You might be wondering now why these lovely, rich DSLR pictures don’t adorn this post, and the reason is that I am stupid, and people are awful. We snapped away, we played, and the kids wanted to paddle in the edge of the pool. I put down the sling, the camera, the bag, and we paddled.

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It wasn’t until we got back to the hotel that we realised. Long after this picture where we awaited our bus returning, content and happy, a full day, successes of doctors and naps, full of joy at the caves and the warmth. I couldn’t find the camera. Stuart said it was in the bag. It wasn’t. I thought it back through and we worked out where it was. I could even see it sitting, in a photo I had taken on my phone. Lodged in wall, next to plants, almost hidden. I felt sick, and sad and stressed. All the effort of planning the trip, making the nap, packing the snacks, carrying the kids and the worry of Sandy’s UTI pushed me over the edge so Stuart had to grab me back up.

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The next morning he went back to the place we bought the trip to the caves from and the woman was dismissive. She told him it was gone, the camera. That there was no point trying to get it back, and that it was none of her concern. She washed her hands of it. But we had left it at 5pm, hardly anyone had been in behind us, it was likely still sitting in the wall. She relented and called, speaking in that voice which would only make the bare minimum effort for her Spanish to sound Spanish. She said it wasn’t there.

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I took the kids to the little pool feeling like maybe it would be found and then it was just the problem of getting it back. We had thought of getting a car, or taking another trip again, it’d be worth it, all those pictures… but Stuart returned saying no luck and he tried the hotel staff who were so much better, so very helpful, and still it was not there. Maybe someone on our tour stole it. Maybe someone behind us. Maybe the staff working there? For it was rather well hidden in a nook. Whoever took it, whoever has it, they have a bit of us. I care not for the camera, we have insurance, its the pictures. The person who has it? They know that. They turned it on, they saw our kids. The picture of Stu holding Sandy on the beach, a recreation of the shot of them doing the same four years earlier in Fuerteventura. Close ups of their faces, full of glee, as they splashed. Ones of Rozzie, not wearing much. Pictures which should not be with anyone else but with us. They know. And still they took it. We mourned it. It seems ridiculous, and we told ourselves over and over, why do we care so much for images, the material? Why not focus on the present. We listened to ourselves but it took time, because those pictures take you right back to the present. We let it go, it was done, and we moved on and enjoyed the rest of our holiday. The bad bit was over and it wasn’t the end of the world, even if it felt like a bit of a punch in the gut.

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While Stuart had been away Sandy had been busy. Roslyn was baby spotting as she often does – “look! Mummy! Baby! Baby! Baby… going away…no! Baby! gone away! Waaaaaaahhhhh” etc – and Sandy was watching too as the mother’s hat fell off the buggy as she went. Sandy noticed it. “Go and give it back to her then” I said and off he trotted cautiously. He picked up the hat, handing it to her I saw him speak. He came running back. “I gave it back to her Mummy!”. I asked him what he had said and he told me “you lost your hat!”. And she said “Thank you”. He’s a good lad.

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He then had to go on another little errand as a little boy picked up his water pistol as he walked by with his Mum and toddled off with it. I told him to go and ask for it back and he did. I was kind of glad it wasn’t me because the little boy cried!

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Another thing the kids loved at our hotel was the mini water park, a selection of fountains and sprays which Sandy called the “robot splash”, because it was robots squirting out water. He went so far as to name each machine after each house robot in robot wars, then gave random made up names to the rest, like Wenk. Sandy’s own language continues.

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Wee Rozzie wasn’t that keen on the robot splash, she’s a bit more timid than Sandy is or ever was. But she did get a kick out of sitting on the littlest fountain.

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Sandy was happy to fully immerse himself, becoming a “Sandy Volcano”

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The kids did swim a little on holiday. Each went in the big pool a couple of times and Sandy made a good effort at doggy paddling across with Stuart. Annoyingly BOTH sets of arm bands somehow lost their ability to hold air on the way here (weird coincidence!) so we couldn’t just let Sandy loose as he would have liked. We will get new arm bands and I now have a resolve to get them to swimming lessons again!

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Behold! The singular glass of wine I had on my holiday! Dehydration and tiredness so don’t make for having much to drink anyway.

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One night we were exploring our volcano when we followed the stream right to the pond. We’d been before but fleetingly. This time we took a look in the water and realised there were literally hundreds of fish! Goldfish like ours and carp too, including this BEAST. It was about 2 feet long lumbering around the shallow pond, its tail poking out the water.

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We also discovered Mushrooms and three turtles living in a little grassy enclosure, eating fresh salad and dozing under a palm tree!

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Since we lost our camera and with it all the pictures of the first few days – notably the beach ones – we decided to revisit Playa Blanca to have one last time at the ocean before coming home. We re-recreated the picture of Stuart and Sandy at the beach too!

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Rozziebear was on top form, running around, digging holes and sitting with her legs out to touch the waves as they rolled in. She looked like a girl not a baby, sob sob.

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Sandman had fun jumping the waves with his Daddy and swimming in the sea with me, shreiking as each wave brought the cool water higher up our bodies.

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That afternoon I had to myself. Stuart kept the kids back at the resort and I visited Puerto Del Carmen to buy some souvenirs and Yaiza, a little village nearby.

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There was the cutest vintage shop in Yaiza, sadly not open when I popped in.

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I wandered down the road though past this cute but confusing sign (where are they?)

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I then visited the Aloe Museum where I got some aloe, salt and volcanic ash based cosmetics. On the way home on the bus I took a photo of the cute impromptu bus stop sighn at Puerto Calero.

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Back at the resort we prepared for our last dinner of the holiday. I was shattered but the kids, and a breif lie down on a bench while the kids were in the park, kept me going.

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We had a game on holiday, whoever got down or up the stairs or lift first (basically whoever wasn’t with Roslyn) pretended to have fallen asleep waiting on the others to arrive. Here Stuart and Sandy made an elaborate attempt outside the restaurant with a Cactus.

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After dinner we wandered. We had made an appointment for a free photoshoot. Emphasis on shoot as it was 6 euros per image to buy the files. Nonetheless we bought them, without our DSLR, and they are lovely (will post them later)

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As is normal in holiday resorts there were various cat friends milling about the place, much to the delight of this kids. This little chap in particular was very small, vocal and adorable.

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The kids named this one fluffy Julius, our holiday Julius!

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The next morning was our last day and Stuart got his time to himself. He chose to go Karting and headed off at 11am. We had checked out and had a few hours to kill before our transfer to the airport so Sandy, Rozzie and I first went to the pool bar for juice and ice cream. The intention was to keep them dry and not too suncreamy to avoid being all oily and wet for going home. We went to the kids club with a little soft play first but soon enough it was lunch time and the kids were asking to splash. So we did.

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First the robot splash were they got totally soaked.

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And then on to the kids pool for some more getting wet.

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I then had the job of trying to dry them without a towel and dress them without clothes… so we headed back to the luggage room and got their flight clothes on!

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Daddy returned to us and we had lunch, our last supper as it were, where thankfully both kids ate well and then waited for the transfer bus which duly arrived.

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On the transfer we spent thirty minutes stopping every few blocks to pick up more passengers before driving right by our hotel again and finally to the airport! Luckily Sandy was entertained by the ipad and Roslyn, well, she couldn’t quite deal. Neither could I.

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We had dinner in the airport and killed the extra two hours we had. Sandy bashed through smaller kids and Roslyn was bashed by bigger kids as every child in Lanzarote fought over the singular slide on a playmat area. We got out the magic painting (woohoo!) and a little girl who spoke no English proved that body language is all you need when you are young and joined in. Finally we boarded our flight and hoped for a peaceful end to the trip.

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I’d like to emphasise here that this is not a posery pretending to be asleep selfie. My arm is holding Stuart’s hand, and he’s taking the picture, I promise!

Sandy did the same as before, wriggling for an eternity then crashing and sleeping peacefully over two seats. Roslyn fell asleep in my arms with some cajoling then woke up after an hour and screamed bloody murder for ten minutes before crashing out again for another hour and repeating the screaming for another ten minutes. It could’ve been worse. Much worse. We landed safely and went through the rigmarole of customs and baggage claim and Stuart and Rozzie going on a little car retreival adventure but finally we arrived back home at 2am, put the kids to bed and said cheerio to our lovely family holiday.

I’m sure there will be holidays in the future where we get more rest, or where the kids make more of the facilities, or where we don’t have to sweat as we push a double buggy. But there probably wont be any holidays so rich in memories as our first, full family sun holiday.

Pool Party

No time! No time!

It’s busy busy busy as usual, if not even busier. Truth be told, we’ve been out having too much fun at the summer festivals for me to blog. So this long overdue (you can tell by the weather!) but better late than never!

The exciting news here is that all the busy times have paid off and yesterday I had my pre-registration visit with the Care Inspectorate resulting in a Registration in a few weeks time! I’m going to be a childminder! I have so much planned and can’t wait to get back to more of what I’m good at and be at home with Sandy and Rozzie more. What’s more is this is my own business. It means so much. So there will be more to follow on that shortly, but for now, enjoy our pool party from June I believe, and I will update on Sandy turning four as soon as I can!

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Forest

Recently Stuart made a gate on our back fence. It leads to a field which leads to a clearing which leads to a hill progressing into woods and a burn. Sandy calls it our forest and in the nice weather we adventured down, a little further each time, until we had an afternoon picnic on the banks of the water.

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Sandy and Rozzie loved throwing stones in the burn to make splashes, and attracted the attention of a magpie. We listend for bird calls and silence and ate less than romantic children’s food on our blanket.

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We love living here. It’s the perfect mix of rural and suburban, a stark change to Glasgow three years ago with troublesome neighbours, marching season and human waste in our doorway.

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To say 2016 has been tumultous for us is an understatement. Stuart paraphrases Sandy’s favourite singer, Ezra Furman, saying that its been a restless year. The bad times have been receding yet still there are bumps in the road. My PhD. for example. It’s a tale for another time but the long and short of it is that if I want to complete it I’m facing another year’s work, another year’s research. No funding + full time work + family + PhD = ? Well, I’m really not sure that I want to find out.

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But importantly, I have a plan. I know what I will be doing come October, should all be well with my registration. I will be a childminder. I’ve been submerged in induction training and registration forms, policies and procedures and GIRFEC. I’ve made more forms that I ever have in my life and undertaking home risk assessments, not to mention emergency evacuation plans, with floorplans. Yep.

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The end of the hard work will hopefully be my own little business, where I can spend time with my children whilst working and make great experiences not only for my own children but those that I hopefully mind.

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There are downsides: inconsistent earnings, a lack of career progression, having to do tax returns… but they seem to be outweighed by the plus points. Every time I think about it I feel positive and I’m going to try my utmost to make it a success.

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So much of the narrative between Stuart and I of late refers to happiness, and family, and what’s actually important in life. We work for the majority of our life and why would we want to do something that makes us unhappy, or where we have to hold back our own characters? For money, success, status? Perhaps I just don’t have what it takes, but I can’t seem to get on with the career thing.

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It’s the same for the PhD. What would my reasons for continuing be? To say I did it? So I didn’t have to say I didn’t? To tick the ‘Dr’ box on forms? It certainly isn’t for career advancement because – as far as I can tell – having a PhD gains you no experience or employability. Rather it detracts by making you seem overqualified and under experienced, unless you choose to try and stay in academia, which from my solitary experience requires far too much in the way of people pleasing and “networking” – code for a high school style navigation of egotistical waters. Why would I continue? Professional pride and a fear of having wasted the last four years. But wasn’t a waste! It truly wasn’t. These pictures attest to such.

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So I think I will leave it behind. I’ll let go of that dream for one more modest. One where I can control my own fate and determine my own success, where hopefully my work ethic and enthusiasm are enough.

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I’ll keep up to date of my progress into childminding and hopefully start converting the blog into this new route too.

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Something has changed in the last month for Stuart and I both, and it’s a shift in outlook that we are now making into practice. Hopefully it will make things better for our whole family.

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Work or Beach

In December last year I moved to a new job. I liked my old job well enough but it was poorly paid and there was no upward possibilities for progression despite a boss who appreciated me and acknowledged my work ethic and leadership. So I tried something else.

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Sometimes you have to make decisions without knowing if it is the right decision. We always want more and often that drives us to leave something acceptable without the surety that the other option will be better. It turns out for me that the other option was very much worse. I think I realised it the day I properly started and faced a girl who was in the same role of me who had not progressed in terms of status or pay in two years, yet was taking influence in all manner of issues outside her responsibility, including the budget, for nothing. It went downhill from there.

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It is easy to be in denial when you so badly want something to be a success, especially if you have something riding on it. Yet if I’d been honest I’d have known the environment was poor from the get go. There were few decent people there, and even those who I knew were alright had issues which made everyone else’s life harder. There was only one person there who ever actually was nice to me. Some people were nasty and others dour, some were incompetent yet in positions of authority. Others just tried to get on with things. I spent four months there and by the end of it I just couldn’t go in. I got scolded for where I stood, no guidance on performance and even berated for daring to take my lunch outwith the building. When I didn’t go in I job hunted.

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I applied for the first things I saw and overlooked issues that I would normally have taken as a red flag; salary, commute, hours. In the end I interviewed for and got a position and I was so deliriously happy that I didn’t care that it was full time; I’d been doing four days a week in hell generally so five days in heaven was so obviously better. I finished my time in my old job not working. It makes you feel bad, like a layabout and a coward, but I’ve been in situations before where I push myself too far so no-one thinks I’m weak or incompetent and end up making everything worse. And it’s not just me now. Any time things impact on my home life I draw a line: nothing touches my children. No job is worth that. So the end came and went and I moved on, taking with me only one person, the rose among the shit so to speak (who has also now escaped I am glad to report).

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I started my new job and found the fact that the problems I’d had previously were gone relieving. I had my own desk and people who I wasn’t scared to be near and an hours lunch break with no interference. The only problem was the hours. I knew when I signed up it was a full time job, but in my delirium I didn’t care.

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Luckily my new job allowed me a degree of flexitime and I was able to negotiate earlier starts and an afternoon off and my dear mother stepped up much like Gran did and took an extra morning. If there is one thing I am going to do based on my experience raising children it is make myself available to care for my grandchildren. That will be my gift to Sandy and Roslyn. Because having a children and a career is virtually impossible, despite the modern world we live in. Which brings me to my current conundrum…

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My job is alright. I mean, I have no major gripes. But it’s a temporary contract and recently that has been emphasised; not only in terms of when I’m out the door but also in a condescending way. I’m a high maintenance employee in some ways, as Stuart noted yesterday I “don’t get on well with work” or something similar. It’s sad but true. I guess the education system failed to mould me into a committed and unquestioning worker, and my self broke through, because to enjoy a job I need to feel at LEAST one of three things: challenged, creative, appreciated. And at the moment I’m feeling little of either.

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The start of a job is fine because there is challenge in a simple learning curve, but as I get good at things I need to be able to use my own brain otherwise it’s all robotic. I dreamed of data entry last night; I knew it was a turning point. Don’t get me wrong, I can do robot work to an extent. I can try and be quick or try and think of how to make it more efficient, but if someone doesn’t notice that I’ve worked hard there is very little motivation to come in the next day and do the same thing, or the day after that.

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So I’ve been feeling these things and feeling the loss of my time with the kids and I know this isn’t for me. Even if anyone had shown any interest in keeping me on, or a similar role was advertised, I’d be reluctant. It’s too much fight. You fight to be helpful and fight not to upset anyone, you hide your opinions and work so damned hard and no-one bats an eye and so often I’ve found thanks are given like gold yet lessons as common as muck. I’m so fed up of only my flaws being noticed. I’m so fed up of being judged on the trivial. I’m relentlessly tired of trying to prove myself to people who are intellectually inferior yet have let the power go to their heads.

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But don’t worry, I have a plan. I thought of what my aims in life are and they’ve changed a lot in the last few years. I used to want the career and took success as for granted. It would be mine, I was ruthless then. But I birthed my son and my brain changed (some good, some bad) and it was a like a wound that will never heal, and all these little things that you can usually brush off or ignore now worry the wound and so often little hurts are so raw and real that it feels the whole world is out to get you. I feel so unprotected since I had my children because any threat to me is a threat to them. Don’t get me wrong, I’d kill for them in an instant, but most often this manifests itself as passivity and hidden tears. Being a parent changes you. Being a mother alters your brain. I am sure of it. I know me, and it has happened.

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What I want is my kids. And my home. And my creativity. I want to make things and do things and visit places. I want experiences and fun and development. And becoming a childminder will allow me that. I won’t have a career, or a fabulous pension. There will be no bonuses or titles or accolades to collect. But I think I will be happy, and my children will be happy. And if I can succeed and bring comfort and care to other children, and maybe even expose them to some new skills and experiences then at least I will have contributed. I won’t have much money but I’ve come to realise enough to pay the bills and a little to put away is PLENTY, and if I love it and I’m good at it, perhaps when Sandy and Roslyn are going through the trials and tribulations of having children and working I will be on hand to help, to accept my grandchildren with open arms, to allow them to know their babes are being loved whatever they decide to do. That would make me fulfilled.

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And what does this have to do with a trip to the beach? Everything it turns out.

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The last two years we’ve waited for the weather to come good and spontaneously packed up the car and headed to Troon. The pictures of my children in the sand grace my walls and my memories. I’ve come to love summer, and rituals and tradition. I line up pictures of the same event year on year and get misty eyed. I think of Sandy letting the sand drain between his fingers, blowing in wisps. And of Roslyn rolling and rolling until she is more sand than skin. I think of their shrieks of joy to see a crab, a plane, a tractor. And of the warm smell of sea and hot skin as we drive home, them asleep in the back, worn out and content, with me at the wheel conveying my precious cargo back to our safe place. They place they come from, the place one was born. These are the things I will cry over as a little old woman.

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I realised this year going to the beach was a long shot. Scottish weather as it is generally you can count on one hand the number of days a year where the beach will be good. It has to be hot, and not wet, with no wind. We get these days but they are rare and I knew that the chances of these days falling on a weekend were minuscule. I accepted my fate but it did not sit easily with me. No more spontaneity for the full time working mother. No more going to anything we wanted irrespective of day or time, that joy comes only to that year’s maternity leave where you are too housebound by necessity or mental strain to enjoy it. My kids are now 2 and almost 4. We have a year left before School puts an end to our carefree fun, and here I’ve given up the days I had to do it.

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I’d decided to register to become a childminder before our beach day. I was already working on the forms and gathering materials. But as the weekend came and I got that TGIF feeling the weather was nice for the first time all year. And it lasted. It was Sunday evening and the forecast and the sky told it and tomorrow was Monday and it was a bank holiday and everything aligned.

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I don’t like to say I believe in karma because I don’t, not really. It’s very woo and unconvincing and would turn me to a hypocrite if I did. But I do believe that you reap what you sow. It would be ridiculous to suggest that our beach day was deserved for some reason; it wasn’t. But it gave me hope. Hope that I can coincide happiness and work. God knows if it’s possible, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

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