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.

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!!

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.

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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Wreath

We FINALLY got round to making our Christmas wreath this year.

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I was waiting and waiting for a day where I had the kids and it wasn’t raining. Such a day did not materialise until a day Stuart was off when the rain broke for two hours in the afternoon and we just managed to get our wreath walk in before the rain came back on.

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Our foliage foraging area is in Baron’s Haugh, a fabulous hidden park in the middle of Motherwell.

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It has several holly bushes and lots of expansive conifers to take a few cuttings from to create a beautiful wreath.

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The holly bush surrounds an open platform area making it into a little den which Sandy named “the holly house”. Stuart, Sandy and Rozzie played in the house while I snipped a few sprigs complete with berries.

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I was glad to have Stuart with us, not only because it is much easier to coral two wandering kids with two bodies, but also for the height advantage.

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Roslyn wasn’t feeling herself all day but she perked up when she got out for her walk.

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It didn’t last long though because she promptly face planted into a puddle of mud.

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After that was resolved it was time for a quick trip to the river and the bridge with no sides which causes Stuart to lose control of his bowels before heading home just as the rain came on.

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I was beginning to think there would be no time for a wreath this year due to how busy we are but luckily we fit it in and I’m really glad we did as I smile every time I see the wreath hanging from our door!

On the Beach in October: Seamill

A bit of a photo heavy post but you will see why!

We arranged an overnight stay to Seamill this week, it being a location our family has gone to most years since my Mum was young. We headed out in the morning and the sun was up and it was cool but lovely, it promised to be a perfect day. Turns out it was a perfect day, but not so much a perfect stay. Mum called as we were en route to say there had been a mix up in dates by the hotel and there were no rooms for the night. We headed on regardless and decided just to make a day of it instead, and bung the kids in the car after dinner and come home.

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Firstly we got to the beach just outside seamill, wrapped up the kids and started to explore.

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Sandy and Roslyn were very happy digging the sand and collecting shells.

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Sandy and I ventured over the rocks to look out to sea. He was very good at avoiding “slippy sea weed” and holding my hand. We looked in the rock pool for crabs and shells.

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Then we hit the shore and paddled. Except Roslyn kept on trying to paddle in a bit too far so was much aggrieved each time I picked her up and put her back on the sand.

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The kids threw rocks in the water happily for ages.

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It was a stunning morning with a perfect view of Arran across the water.

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By the time we’d played for an hour it was getting too hot for all those layers.

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So we had a picnic on the beach and then headed off to the hotel where were meeting the family. We had lunch and then returned to the beach there where it was warm enough for bare toes and paddling.

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Sandy spent a lot of time building sand castles with Daddy and Auntie Fran. He stuck feathers in as flags and made sticks drive around and over the castles as trains going to stations and over bridges.

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Little miss Rozzie stoated about brandishing driftwood.

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Such a warm day, you’d never have known it was mid-October!

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Me and Jim!

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After the beach we went in and had a swim at the hotel before dressing for dinner…

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The kids played in the garden for a while, with a ball borrowed by Tate.

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The rest of us lounged…

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… while Roslyn perfected her acrobatic routine…

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… and Sandy showed off his football skills….

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We headed in for dinner and things started to get problematic with the rather atrocious service. The kids were hungry and things took ages. What with spilled drinks, one too few trips to the bathroom and missing starters we were more than ready to jump in the car and head for the hills. Not before Stuart sort of missed his joint birthday cake being brought out. It was a bit stressful towards the end but that didn’t take away from the fabulous day we had on the beach playing and swimming.

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Hopefully next time things will pan out better and we will get the same fabulous luck with the weather!

Sandy’s First Day of Nursery

On Wednesday 19th August 2015, I officially became the mother of a big boy.

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This beauty, this love, this absolute hunky dreamboat of a boy…

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… well, he went to nursery for the first time ever.

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It’s his local nursery and he’s going four mornings a week. We got his little uniform ready and the big day dawned, so we got up, mourned the end of lazy mornings not dressing til after Roslyn’s midday nap, and headed out to walk to his first morning there!

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My big lad!

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(Aside: see Roslyn ending herself in the background as I shouted “big poos! jobbies” etc to make Sandy smile for the photos)

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At this point it would be very unwise to inform me that soon enough it will be Roslyn going too, as some cheeky blighters have chosen to do *stern*

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So here he is in all his glory…

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My big boy… *sob sob* excuse me while I cry into my pillow and think of the little scrap of flesh he once was.

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We walked over and went inside, found his coat hook and bag cubby (labelled with his own little independent I-go-places-without-my-mummy name *sob sob*) and met his teacher. We wandered into the classroom and he just walked off and played. Just like that. So we left and went into the room to wait and just be there if he needed us. We checked on him through the window on the door a few times and saw him playing with the water and generally exploring. He came through to meet us after an hour quite the thing, the only negative for him being the perplexed feeling he got when told they only had milk or water, not juice. Can’t win them all though, can we?

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As Stuart and I walked home with him he said that, as much as he didn’t want to sound like a cliche, it was the first day of the rest of his life. His own life that doesn’t necessarily revolve around his family, namely, me and Stuart. I agreed. It just feels far too soon somehow.

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The next day didn’t go as smoothly as he cried and said he was shy and didn’t want to go in. The teacher asked me to leave and stay in the room to see if he settled, and I could hear him shouting “mummy! MUMMYYYY!” as I walked away which was hard. But I’ve been there before on his days with his grandparents so I wasn’t too phased. In the end he lay on the floor for five minutes refusing to speak to anyone then got up and started interacting. He had his snack and I was told to come back in an hour and they’d call if I was needed. I wasn’t and he spent his 1.5hours happily without me. He later told me that he’d had milk and a banana as his snack and that he “played with toys and water with girls”. Super stuff.

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He’s not been since that second day due to illness which has kept him off all week long. He will be back this week and hopefully will progress nicely to spending his mornings happily there.

Go Sandy!

Sheffield: Day 3 of a Holiday Extravaganza

Day 3 of our holiday started at the delightful time of 5am with the awakening of Roslyn who is part baby part cockerel. Our rising followed a night of ridiculously bad sleep as Roslyn had cottoned on to the fact that we were reluctant to let her cry in the hotel and wake fellow residents. Leaping out of bed and grabbing her instantaneously each time had taught her that whenever she stirred she would get cuddles and milk within 5 seconds of a cry. This trend continued each night for the rest of the holiday and has not abated since our arrival home. Thanks Roslyn. You little chancer.

Despite our vigilance at night the residents of the Elmbank hotel the next morning were less forgiving than we were, when – at 7.30 amidst the cheery sounds of cbeebies, fart noises and manic giggles – someone shouted “SSSSSSHHHHHAAAAAAUUUUUUTTTT UUUPPPPPPPPP!!!!” then slammed their window closed. Oops. I felt bad, but also felt like I’d done above and beyond by keeping them quiet all night til that point. Half seven is still a good lie in for zombie parents and retired holidaymakers alike, yeah? Yeah?!

Anyway! We shipped out quite speedily after that and hit the road towards Sheffield.

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The National Emergency Services Museum was another impromptu stop off. The journey from York to Sheffield only took an hour and – haven risen with the sun – we were there well before the late morning date I had for work (more to follow) so I googled things to do in sheffield, saw some nee naws and knew it’d be a winner.

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Sandy was thrilled to ride on the Coastguard quad and was pretty gutted he had to remove the helmet. If only he weren’t so wobbly we could’ve left him there for hours and we would’ve actually been able to read some of the information on display. As it went we spent a good hour and a half chasing these two from vehicle to vehicle and at least twenty minutes cajoling them off of the fire simulation where you could pretend to put out a flaming bin yourself.

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We spent an inordinate amount of time putting on various helmets, which, as you can see from this picture, was all for the kids…

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By this point in the holiday I was right in the daft touristy photo swing of things and happy to pose in any manner of situations, no matter how ridiculous it made me look.

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The museum itself was fab. Situated in the old fire station it had a gritty feel to it, with all the sights and smells of the past making it feel very real. The volunteers running it were very helpful and one even demonstrated the fireman’s pole in use before letting Sandy get a mini shot himself.

Before long it was time to move out as I had a standing date at Outokumpu, the steelworks which made the panels on the Kelpies. So after a detour to the wrong place and the effort of getting into the place which was akin to going through airport security, I met the guys and had a tour of the warehouse where laser cutting of Kelpie pieces took place. I think I looked very fetching and anticipate safety shoes to be the next big thing in fashion.

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Next stop was to visit Marjorie, my Great “Aunt”, and therefore Sandy and Rozzie’s Great Great Aunt!

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Marjorie took us to dinner not far from here at a place with a play park in the outdoor seating area which was fabulous as the kids played while we chatted. After dinner we headed back to Marjorie’s for strawberries and ice cream which Sandy was particularly pleased about.

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Outside we played with bubbles…

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…and inside we marveled at the kids’ ability to find amusement in the simplest things.

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We even managed at group photo, not far from bedmeltdown time, where every single one of us was looking at the camera! Score!

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It was lovely to see Marjorie and to know we would be seeing her again soon as she is up here in just over a week too!

We headed to our hotel in Chesterfield and promptly crashed again, ready for another night of no sleep followed by a day of much fun to come…

York: Day 2 of a holiday extravaganza

We started out our second day on holiday by waking up surprised to have not had an utterly sleepless night. Then we did a leisurely arrangement of ourselves for venturing out. Despite it involving a 30 minute long bath we were still on the streets of York by 8am and at a loss for what to do. We grabbed some breakfast then headed back to the park beside Yorkminster where the kids roamed happily in the sunshine.

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After that we went to York’s Chocolate Story. And by went I mean faffed about going the wrong way based on hunches for half an hour. But it was okay because we were early as ever and actually arrived bang on time, taking part in the first tour of the morning. The tour told us all about the history of chocolate making in York and involved eating a lot of chocolate so it was a win-win. We had chocolate drops, an aztec chocolate chilli drink, quality streets and chocolate to taste professionally. There was a computer projected machine which turned the beans into chocolate and Sandy was the one who moulded the chocolate.

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After that we got to make our own chocolate lollipops which Sandy enjoyed, pouring a ridiculous amount of sprinkles on to his. While they dried we saw a chocolatier make moulded fondant chocolates, and then we got to eat them all. It was great and I’d go again for sure!

Roslyn fell asleep fairly soon after the tour as she was shattered still from the day before so while she napped in the sling we walked to the castle and found a carousel for the boys to enjoy.

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Sandy was brave and went on a horse this time; previously he’s always opted for the seats. He chose “Paris”.

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We went to the castle but didn’t go in as it was a good climb and we had the buggy. Instead Sandy scaled the hill despite notices not to.

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After that we wandered over to the National Railway Museum. Roslyn woke when we entered and were greeted by the most lovely staff. We went to the restaurant for lunch which is themed like a dining car before heading into the main part of the museum to explore.

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Here we are on a very fast chinese train… (excuse my not knowing anything about the trains as the two littles didn’t exactly respond favourably to standing and reading)

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They have a brilliant place for young children to play with brio tracks, soft play type things, a model train to build and a pretend ticket office. We spent an hour alone there while Sandy and Roslyn played away.

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Roslyn had her first holiday romance as a younger man (9 months) crawled over to her and they started hugging and kissing for a long time. It was very sweet.

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Sandy loved playing with the model train and dressing up in the hard hats and vests. He was utterly adorable in the ticket office sticking his head out of the window saying “tickets please! you go to the seaside now” before running around the place handing out tickets to anyone who he saw.

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We managed a (rather overexposed) family photo!

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All in all it was a fabulous place to visit. I can’t believe it is free as it is so expansive, you really could spend a whole day if not several there. I wish it was close to home so I could take the kids every week!

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After the museum we headed to another burger joint called Byron which was delicious. When we entered we were that family everyone dreads turning up to thrash and cry next to your relaxed meal, but luckily once the food was going in S and R chilled out a bit and everything calmed down.

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We headed back to the hotel utterly exhausted and put the kids to bed straight away, stupidly thinking that the decent nights sleep before would be replicated…

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Day 3 coming soon!