These Pictures Keep Making Me Cry

What is it about being a parent that makes everything feel so much more? Happiness is so much more joyful. Excitement is rendered utterly exhilirating. Wounds go so much deeper.

And that bittersweet feeling when you suddenly realise that your child is growing up, a mixture of pride at their accomplishment, joy in that moment, and deep sorrow that you can’t keep them as they are at present. Because they are just so perfect you can’t even believe it.

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It happened to me when he went on the train. He told me he wanted to go on it. He waited as the previous occupants rode around in a circle. It stopped. He got on. He looked out at us.

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I felt this pain in my chest, it’s so hard to describe. His little face in that carriage. Sitting with the other children. The same look on their faces, spinning past us with the hint of a grin when they glimpsed us, waving and waving from the sidelines. Small people spinning around a circular track, each tiny hand grasping a chain attached to a bell. At first no one rang them, then one boy did, then they all did. It was mesmerising.

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They were being like us, like everyone. They wanted to ride on the train like people in the real world do daily. It’s normal and they want to be normal and accepted and just like us. So they sat on the seats, because that’s how people do. And there were bells for ringing, so they rang them. We told them what to do and they watched each other and the result was this heart breaking image of them spinning in front of us, each a little person with a unique character and a family and a mother and father standing there, marvelling at how far they’ve come, their hearts breaking with the unstable contradiction of intense joy and immense sorrow colliding.

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It’s something about them all together that did it, the idea that he’s just a two year old boy among many, enjoying a train ride. Yet he’s not just a boy among many, he’s my boy among many. He’s the boy who counts “2,2,2”, the boy who only wants to eat things shaped like stars, the boy who says “bye” at bed time and “fan foo” and “wuv ooo”, the boy I would die for. The most amazing and incredible person packaged into that tiny little body, and there he is, on the train with all the other little people, so normal and so exceptional all at the same time.

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These moments, they just come up on me. Simple things, normal times, and suddenly I’m a wreck of emotion. And when I look at these pictures I cry. Every single time.

Interactive Gallery

We went to new Lanark the other afternoon to enjoy the interactive gallery.

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It’s basically like a small soft play but with lots of noises and lights that come on when you step on certain areas and touch certain things. It’s always really quiet too which is a big bonus.

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It’s a rare thing to find somewhere that entertains sandy and provides me the ability to set Roslyn down for a bit.

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We even made a makeshift chair for her!

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We went in the afternoon which didn’t leave tonnes of time for a walk afterwards so will probably go with Stuart at the weekend again soon.

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Sandy loved running in circles with me and watching me fall over then copying me.

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Not wanting to wish time away at all, but it will be so much fun when the two of them can both run around together.

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We had a quick snack then went for a little walk at the falls of Clyde.

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This is his smile face. You get a split second to get the photo before it’s retracted.

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I forgot to take his lunch box out the car so we had to cut the walk short to go back in search of snacks. I think we need to make a day of it sometime soon. New Lanark is fab.

From Cot to Bed

In case you missed it, we bought sandy a bed. So I just wanted to make a quick post about the transition from cot to bed and what we did which resulted in success.

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I don’t know that anything we did in particular resulted in the success. It was lucky that sandy was ready and if he wasn’t obviously it wouldn’t have worked, but I do think some things we did facilitated his readiness.

Firstly, we didn’t do it until Roslyn was firmly settled into our family, I only wanted to put him in his bed when I knew he wouldn’t feel pushed out or was generally out of sorts.

Prior to getting his bed we bought him a duvet and pillow. We played with it downstairs for a day or two first and sandy loved it so we then put it in his cot and he slept with his duvet for a month or so happily. So when it came to showing him his new bed we put the duvet on it and he immediately knew he was meant to sleep there. I think this in particular really helped him get his head around the concept of sleeping out with his cot.

When it came to his first night we almost aborted. His last night in the cot he woke crying with a sore ear. I thought he was unwell so was ready to put off the bed to avoid any negative association. As it happened he was fine the next day so we went ahead.

On the night we kept his routine exactly the same as before and put him down in his bed exactly like we would have in the cot. I positioned the bed exactly where the cot had been and had his head pointing the same way too, even though that’s not where I want the bed to be in the end. Familiarity trumps home decor!

The first night he did exactly as he normally does. When he woke for milk in the night he just sat in bed and asked for us as usual!

We didn’t get a rail on the bed. It is the right height to get in and out of safely for him so we just decided to see how it went without. I was concerned he would fall out having seen the odd positions he ended up in in his cot, but so far he hasn’t fallen out and it’s been several weeks.

As for getting out and playing I was prepared for that. I made sure anything he could hurt himself on was out the room, all cables safely out of reach and the blind cord up high. I also took all toys out the room except from a few soft toys and his books, so if he did get out to play it would be quiet and not too stimulating. On the second and third nights we found him under the bed shouting “daddy daddy daddy”. We couldn’t work out why and wondered if he had been sleeping under there but I worked it out later, he dropped his dummy under there, went to get it and couldn’t get back out! He hasn’t done it since though so either he has worked out how to get out or doesn’t drop it. If it had come to it I would have put boxes under to stop him though.

There have been several situations in which he has gotten out the bed and thankfully they have only been at the start of the night or first thing in the morning. He usually goes into his reading nook or plays with the monitor turning the light on and off. At bedtime we let him play for 15 minutes and sometimes he just gets into bed himself and goes to sleep. If not we go in and pick him up, put him back in and say “it’s bed time, stay in your bed” and kiss him goodnight again. In the morning we just let him play as he isn’t waking early, just at his usual time.

And finally my other worry was him staying under the duvet. At first we kept finding him on top of the cover and worried he was going to get cold, so I put a long sleeve vest under his pyjamas and warm socks. Then we would check on him before we went to bed and cover him with another quilt if needed. But since he has become better at staying under which is fab.

So there you have it, our bed success. I’m really glad he took to it well and surprised us all!

Sleeplessness

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Ah sleep. You wonderful thing you. So comfy, so restorative, so pleasant. I remember the days when you and I would spend nine delightful hours together, undisturbed by anyone. I remember the days where I lamented having to get up and go to the bathroom at night, once. I remember the mornings where Stuart could get up, have a shower and use the hairdryer, a foot away from my head and I would not rouse. I remember when I had an alarm clock.

Anyone who is a parent will know where I’m going with this. That is unless they are one of those people who utter the words “oh, mine were sleepers” and risk generating the half incredulous half murderous stare of the sleep deprived.
Such a familiar phrase to me over the last three years is “there’s a reason they use sleep deprivation as torture”. It’s a jealous and struggling mother’s mantra to validate the fact that – despite going to bed at 8pm and getting up ten hours later – she feels like she’s somewhere between alive and dead. Once I was told by a friend that I should go easy on the mothers’ of sleeping babies, because they have their struggles too. Agreed, we are all fighting things we find hard in our lives. But said mothers really should refrain from telling us how damned tired they are after the sleeper in question woke up twice last night. Twice can be a very good night you know. Twice can be nirvana.

I felt it so much more last time around. I suppose it is the most incredible culture shock you can generate for someone. Everywhere I look I hear how tired people are. I hear stories of how stormy weather had them up for a whole hour last night. How they only got in at 4am and have to work the next day (their choice, of course). How their neighbour kept them up. This time around I laugh. I laugh from my tower of sleeplessness, regal in my aura of awakedness and aware no-one will challenge my making up of words and fanciful yet incorrect grammar lest I sentence them to death. Not to mention the overuse of metaphorical scenarios in blogs. Indeed, the first time around I couldn’t cope. I was struggling badly.

This time I’m here on the PC at 5am. Well, no, it’s 6:20am because when you take time to yourself it has this bad habit of flying away faster than imaginable.

As I wrote that last line I heard steps coming down the stairs. “2…2…2…” Sandy counted. I stopped writing. Even getting up at 5am doesn’t get you enough time. And why was up I up at 5am? Because Roslyn had woken for the fourth time. And by the time I got her back down I couldn’t sleep and I knew if I tried hard I would but it would probably happen about three minutes before either Stuarts alarm went off or sandy started trying to decapitate the monitor. So I got up. I was fed up. I’m not a grumpy person, but sometimes it’s just too much and it’s nice to escape the relentless cycle of being awoken, and just take matters into your own hands. It’s nice to choose to be awake, even if it is just to go downstairs make a cup of tea and blog about tiredness.

I had the idea to do this blog and have it as a positive post of how, by the time your second comes, you are so used to being woken and sleepless that you don’t really notice it. That’s true, very true. Pregnancy has a way of doing that to you. First time round being up to pee every two hours doesn’t prepare you, because you can then nap all day to recover.

But anyway. I’m tired. So we all are, but it will end right? “This too shall pass” anyone? Another mantra of the desperate women up and down the country, trying hard not to let the bad stuff get the better of them. I think I almost had it this morning. Much like yesterday too. I was shouting at sandy, and thinking, I’m going to break. But I didn’t, because they slept eventually. And I look at Roslyn in my arms, while sandy rests upstairs, and her face is angelic. And she smells that way she does, you know. It’s too much. They look like that and they smell like that and they hug you so tightly like that, so you can’t help but forgive them anything.

I hear sandy on the monitor now. Nap time is over. I will probably be shouting again in ten minutes time. I suppose there is no point to this ramble, other than to say not sleeping enough is hard, and I’m right there with you, waiting for the tide to go out.

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Forgaing Failure and Relentless Rain

I will admit now I shouted much more than I usually do last week. You see, sandy is grumpy (god knows why, I’m getting fed up at myself even for being a broken record stuck on a track named “f-ing incisors”) Roslyn is nosey and the weather is pants.

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Roughly translated this means my lust for free food and the romanticism of hedgerow foraging made me take two cranky children out in the pissing rain on my own in search of raspberries.

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These photos really don’t highlight the reality of the situation, starting with “just BE QUIET for FIVE MINUTES Sandy” in the driveway very loudly as Roslyn had a little meltdown because I dared to restrict her view with a hood in the sling… And ending with “JUST GET BACK IN THE PRAM NOW SANDY!” As he ran away after being told off for screeching and waking Roslyn after a glorious 9 minutes asleep.

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But you know what? I took that damn camera all the way out with me in a ziplock bag (rain, much, remember?) so I wasn’t going to just leave the bugger under the buggy. No, instead I took these pictures which highlight just how easy it is to fake the perfect life on a blog. While Roslyn wailed and wailed. I later found out it’s because she only likes the buggy if you are driving it in circles. Straight lines just won’t cut it for my little lady.

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Ah but look how cute he is in his raincoat and Wellies splashing away in the puddles.

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And as for those raspberries? Yeah, there weren’t any.

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I told him we would be picking them. He was so excited. He kept walking and walking because I said “raspberries! This way!” With this manic grin and gritted teeth and sopping wet hair. And they were long gone. I managed to find him three almost ripe blackberries on the way back which, bless him, he scoffed and declared to be “nummy nummy”.

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Anyway, a few towels and an ice lolly later and we were home and it wasn’t long from Stuarts blessed arrival so thank goodness. Things aren’t always rosy, I’m not going to lie, but we get by.

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Mum and Sandy’s Birthday Party

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Happy 56th Mum! And happy 2nd again Sandy. We roll these family parties into one.

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This one is photo heavy.

Insert cute kid with sunglasses shoot here.

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And insert candid family shots here.

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We got mum a sandy and Roslyn canvas. It’s my go to present at the moment. You can get an a2 one like this for £17.99 on orbit print. Really good service. And no, this post isn’t sponsored.

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Don’t you love it when your getting a picture taken and suddenly something immensely cute goes down by chance and then is on film forever to remember?

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Yep. Love that boy so much.

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He ate the cake with the candle, again. At least this time he didn’t swallow the wax!

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Lucky sandy got loads of other presents, all car/plane/helicopter themed so he was very happy.

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Roslyn was quite interested too.

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It was even nice enough to get outside. It was windy though and it felt like the last we would be able to it this year. It wasn’t long after this day that I told Stuart it had turned. It was 1% autumn. Now I think it’s a bit more again.

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Another fine time had by all :)

Garden: July 2014

Here it is! The post I always dreamed of! The one where I show off the produce I have harvested from my very own garden!

But first, some progress on the left hand side, FINALLY!

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We’ve cleared and started to level a decent bit of it. Then we will buy a bulk bag of gravel. 2/3 will be gravelled for a greenhouse when I can afford it (hopefully in time for next years growing) and the 1/3 nearest the lawn will be prepped to expand my veg garden. Lessons learned from this year 1/ potatoes grow EVERYWHERE so they will be transported here next year to free up more ground for other stuff around the other side.

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Here are my fruit canes, I will be putting more up this side soon.

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And we have finished the drainage. So far I think it looks lovely! So decorative for a functional change, and it has been working well. Time will tell when winter comes but I am positive it should stop the bogginess we got last year.

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Californian poppies still flowering.

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Yesterday I started to cut the grass then noticed a massive grey cloud of doom coming. I just managed to finish it before it pelted us with rain! Also here is sandy’s birthday climbing frame, a new addition to the garden :)

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This border is next on the list to tackle. Once I’m back at university and have some income again I will be started to fill the border.

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We do still have a little colour out there though. Not bad for the first year.

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Meanwhile in the veg garden the radishes are over but the lettuce is still providing us with all our salad needs. I took out the spinach last time as I had let it shoot but I’ve planted some more perpetual spinach for the later months of the year.

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Also missing now are the potatoes as they are all harvested, but here carrots, beetroot and leeks are growing.

I have learned a good few things in this first year of having a kitchen garden and a lot of that is to do with spacing and where to plant each thing. I will be putting this into plan next year to be more productive with the space.

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This picture sums up our garden over the last month, lots of time out playing as a family.

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So today I harvested my gooseberries. There was a no pain no gain situation as I got attacked by thorns and a sneaky hidden nettle…

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…but the crop was a big success!

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All this from only one fruit cane. I can’t wait for the blackberries to ripen too and for next year once I’ve planted the other six canes I just got from Aldi.

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After eating some of the biggest ones I made the remainder into my first ever home grown organic jam.

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I’m so proud and can’t wait to give some of these to friends to try.

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And now, some vegetables! Fabulous turnip!

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Cauliflowers growing.

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Leeks thriving.

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And carrots.

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My faithful chilli plant continues to supply us with more fruit than we can use so we’ve been freezing them to see us well into next year!

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My two bush tomato plants yielded well. I really would love to have the greenhouse up for next year so I can get a good bumper crop going and make some preserves from them.

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The basil here is now all gone in dinners!

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Beautiful broad beans. This was them at the start of the month…

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Little beans…

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And here they are with the remaining potatoes I harvested, and a turnip and my first ever pepper.

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We had it in a pasta. I’m so proud I managed to grow one.

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The beans were only half the crop, they were certainly my most plentiful veg this year!

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They were delicious in butter and parsley, and the rest I blanched and put in the freezer for future use.

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Delicious potatoes including pink fir apples. Some were boiled and others chipped and the remainder…

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…also washed and blanched and frozen.

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Roslyn was pretty happy to help with this knowing in a few short months she will be weaning on mummy’s organic veggies!

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So we’ve had a fabulous July and I’m looking forward to finishing up the summer by using or preserving the rest of my fruit and vegetables, collecting and drying seeds for next year and preparing the garden for autumn.

How to – Kids Car/Grand Prix Party

Here is a quick round up of what I did to prepare for and host Sandy’s car/Grand Prix second birthday party.

Firstly, the invites. I got the idea roughly from Pinterest and used Microsoft publisher to make business card sized sheets in the style of a pass to fit in lanyard wallet.

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A simple chequer pattern and some clip art worked well. Keeping it simple was necessary at this size! Make sure and play around with the size of fonts and view at 100% so that everything is legible.

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The lanyards and wallets came from ebay. It’s easy to make elaborate invites cost less by comparing prices plus p&p as well as the quantities you will be buying. Ebay is fab for free postage too so you can buy all aspects of the project separately and cheaper without postage costs ruining the savings.

When I’m thinking of making invites for kids parties I try to think of a way to make the invite like a toy, or prop. Last year it was stand up ships for the pirate party and these ones work so well because they can be worn. I had lots of my friends telling me how much their kids loved wearing the invites in the run up to the party. This makes the extra effort even more worth it!

For decoration I chose to keep it simple. A few stand alone pieces set the scene with minimal effort. I like to brainstorm a theme thinking of everything I can relates to it and write all these down then work with each to see if they work as a decoration.

My favourite was the sandytander sign. I’m lucky to have a boy with a name that lends itself to so many words with sand in it, and it was a fabulous coincidence that one of the major sponsors of formula one has half his name in its title!

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As you can see here I also did a shell logo.

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And the UBS logo above the start lights as you entered the room!

Buying massive helium balloons really works well for cost effective but big impact decoration. Three of these didn’t set me back much but looked brilliant, a car, a trophy and a race car.

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Moving to the all important cake. I made two cakes for sandy, one with stars on as he loves stars and the show stopper, a number two with a road and cars on. It’s really simple to make shaped cakes by baking them in large loaf trays then cutting the sponge into shapes when cool. I used a greaseproof paper template of the number and pieced together the sponge.

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Then butter icing covers the whole thing…

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…and green icing makes the base layer.

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For decoration black icing makes a road with white strips as the road markings. Two cars I just shaped with my hands and put little wheels on and I used my trusty alphabet cutters to add his name to it. It’s a really simple but effective cake for any car lover and obviously can be made in any number you need.

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And here is the star cake, a simple round cake with buttercream and jam in the middle, covered in buttercream and decorated with icing stars and sprinkles. I think all in all the two cakes took around two hours to bake and decorate which is not bad.

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Then there was the spread for the guests.

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A chequerboard of sandwiches made simply by arranging brown and white bread sandwiches. Or sandywiches, if you will!

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Fruit f1 cars with apple pieces and blueberry wheels.

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The ubiquitous chocolate finger traffic lights.

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An array of dipsticks. They are all breadsticks dipped in chocolate. My mum make the eons covered in star sprinkles and I made three flavours: salted milk chocolate, chilli dark chocolate, and raspberry white chocolate. Really simple to make, easy to eat and so effective.

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Mums milky way cars with smarties wheels and mini gingerbread men drivers!

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Various fruit and savoury skewers in traffic light colours with chequer flag skewers.

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You can make your own flag skewers by printing a sheet of chequer pattern and cutting long rectangles then pritt sticking them to skewers. You can also do it on a large scale with garden canes to make flags!

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So there you are all the little touches I did for the party. I didn’t go as all out as I did last year, what with having not long had Roslyn but it was great fun. I’m excited already thinking about what her first birthday theme will be!

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Kids in the Car

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Ok, so I don’t really do blog posts that aren’t just musings coming straight from the old brainio. That is to say, I don’t just take a topic and try to blog about it, certainly not from an outside party. But I’m making an exception. Mumsnet contacted me and asked me to consider a new Scottish in car safety campaign. I read the email and thought hmmm, saw that there was a deadline on it and thought ARGH PRESSURE NOOOO (a relic from my undergraduate degree if ever there was one). Then they sent a wee reminder and I noticed something about a prize draw of John Lewis vouchers so here I am happily making the time to do it.

In all seriousness though I am doing it because recently this has been on my mind. The quality of my driving has deteriorated. I first noticed it during pregnancy, that typical baby brain fog that stopped me concentrating quite so much on the road. Since Roslyn came I’d like to say the fog had lifted and my driving was tip top again but alas, while my mind is clearer, there are two big old distractions in my rear view just asking me to take my eye off the road. Roslyn does not like the car. She cries, she shrieks, she falls asleep for twenty minutes then wakes up restored ready to scream along to whichever album I’ve had in the CD player for three solid weeks. Sandy is equally high maintenance what with the “give me a bag of crackers, no how dare you open them for me, I don’t want them, oh wait how dare you take them off me…” Game which invariably ends up with crackers all over the floor, yoghurt smeared over the window and the dummy in his mouth again so I only have to listen to one child roaring for 30 minutes. Suffice to say, my driving has taken a hit in terms of quality, and probably safety.

When I looked at the kids in the car campaign I did the quiz which asks you six questions. I answered yes to four of the six indicating that I indeed was driving with bad habits and therefore not as safely as I could. The quiz told me in a nice way to change my habits lest I wreak havoc on the roads:

“Ok, so you have a few bad habits, but you probably knew that already. But you might not have made the connection between how you drive when your kids are in the car and how they will drive as young adults. The good thing is that you’re very aware of what you’re doing in the car, so make your promise to help make your children safer drivers in the future.”

So I’ve made my promise and will get sandy to help me colour in my promise driving license ASAP. We actually just got back from IKEA and I put into plan some of the ideas including one I really liked which was to just be late and arrive alive. I’ve been keeping my distance, an eye on the speedometer and saying ” silly driver” rather than anything expletive, because let’s face it sometimes other drivers are infuriating, but it’s my choice to keep my cool and roll my eyes instead of rage.

So check out the campaign website find watch the video it’s really good and maybe take the promise yourself. As Stuart has been saying recently, he just imagines that every child he sees or sticky situation he’s in involves sandy. It’s a sobering thought to put your own child into the mix and provides an instant encouragement to drive more slowly and carefully.

Sandy’s 2nd Birthday Grand Prix Party

Last year for sandy’s birthday we had a pirate party, not because sandy was into pirates (because let’s face it one year olds are pretty much only into throwing food and chewing things they shouldn’t, and those aren’t great themes) but because it was fun to have as a party theme. This year though we wanted to have a party based on what he loves. At first it was going to be toy story as he was obsessed by the films from 19-22 months but it’s a good job we didn’t as he has gone right off of it lately. So we went with a fail safe: CARS. Sandy adores cars. He adores all wheeled objects really. When looking to plan the party the two avenues to go were either the Disney film cars or a formula 1 party. We went with the latter as it meant less to buy and he’s not that into the cars films anyway.

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So while Sandy napped I set up and Roslyn and Stuart looked pretty.

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My favourite bit of all the decorations is the sandytander banner :)

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The parentals came over as mum had kindly made food for the occasion to help me out which in hindsight is funny as even if she hadn’t we would have still had a tonne left over! But what she brought was fab so I’m glad she did.

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And much like last years party in the space of 30 minutes the room exploded with people. Luckily not as many as last time due to a combination of people not being able to make it and me inviting only people with children rather than the whole extended family!!

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We had cake early because sandy was bobbing around the kitchen with pa, being a bit out of sorts seeing as his house had been overrun with every single person he knew practically, and saw the cake. He couldn’t resist cake AND cars so I hastily arranged for it to be brought out to avoid a tantrum.

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True to earlier form he blew the candle out perfectly.

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And he couldn’t wait to get his mitts on the cars atop the 2.

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Stuart later said he felt so special because only he and I were offered a bite of sandy’s precious icing cars.

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Which is even more special considering this was sandy’s reaction when Noah came to have a look at the other car on the cake!!! Classic!

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Sandy then spent the rest of the afternoon with one or both of these in his hands and later a green face from munching away on them!

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I was a little apprehensive about how Roslyn would be during the party. All morning she had refused to sleep anywhere but me and for no longer than 25 minutes. I could envision myself wandering around with her wailing at the boob while the party fun went on without us. Luckily she was a perfect angel, all smiles and contentment, asking only for a brief feed before snoozing in her gran and aunties arms. I barely held her all afternoon she was so happy with her guests!

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Meanwhile in the playroom the kids had a bit of fun on the podium. I’d really really hoped the weather would be nice and I was going to set this up on the loungers and have the kids stand behind it for pictures but it was raining a lot so no chance!

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Josh and Noah had fun with the trophy though, passing it around so everyone could have a shot of being the winner.

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Chequer flag traffic light skewers

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Milky Way cars

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Dipsticks

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All in all sandy had a good time. He was a little out of sorts at first but soon got into the party spirit.

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And Roslyn was the life and soul.

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And once everyone was headed home sandy tucked into every sweet thing remaining on the table.

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Chilling in the aftermath.

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Thanks to all our guests for coming!