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!

Gretna to York: Day 1 of a Holiday Extravaganza

We are just back from holiday. In fact we are back two days earlier than expected but, for the sake of INCREDIBLE SUSPENSE, I won’t tell you why just yet. For now, here’s our first day of the holiday.

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We set out from home at half eight in the morning and by ten were at Gretna Green for our scheduled stop to break up a three and a half hour journey to York.

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The famous blacksmith’s shop is a great stop over point, albiet quite touristy (but secretly I lap that stuff up anyway so it was a win-win).

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The littles burned off some energy in the play park which was ideal so they didn’t combust in the car.

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Anywhere that gets one of these things ticks a box in my daft tourist check list (which also contains ‘sells photo magnets’, ‘is a little bit kitcsh’ and ‘has a maze’ for what it’s worth)

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Coincidentally this place also did have a maze so we checked that out once it opened at 10am which – unlike the rest of the population – is practically midday for parents, and therefore a daft time for things to open. However, nearly every attraction opens at 10am and we routinely found ourselves leaving our hotel room at 7:50 and trying to find things without doors to do for two hours before we could get into places, by which time the kids were either hungry or tired or both so you know how that goes. Stuart decided he’s going to open a branch of tourist locations opening at 8am for families around the country because of that.

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Anyway I digress…

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The maze was… aMAZEing. Yes, I went there. Blame my new job and concession groups’ love of inoffensive play on words jokes.

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One thing that was a bit of a challenge on holiday was Rozzie’s inability to walk yet. When I thought of the holiday months ago I just assumed by almost 15 months she’d be on her feet (after all Sandy was toddling away a week after his first birthday) but alas she was not. So we spent A LOT of time hunched over having her walk holding onto our hands lest she crawl through the muck (which is all fine and well at home with 20 outfits to choose from and a tumble drier).

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The thing that Gretna of course is famous for is eloping to get married because of the age limit being younger in Scotland in the past so English lovers would come over to marry then return home. So in the spirit of that I asked the youngest man I knew to marry me…

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He said “I do” and we sealed the deal with a kiss.

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Stuart tried the same with Roslyn but she wasn’t quite ready to settle down just yet ;)

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She was however okay with a public on the ground love in with her best buddy.

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After Gretna we headed to York, just making the journey before any major whining set in. We checked into the hotel and then went out to source some dinner.

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We had time to visit Yorkmister (from the outside only this visit) where on the steps Roslyn made friends with two pugs who licked her face. She didn’t seem to mind in the slightest!

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As you can see here we got great weather on our first day and – by and large – it lasted most of the holiday.

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Roslyn was happy to be able to crawl to her hearts content on the steps.

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Learning with Daddy.

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We went to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen for dinner which was like Ketchup in Glasgow and ideal for the kids. They even a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Milkshake which was not the last appearance Uddingston’s most famous export would make on our travels…

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Finally when we got back to the hotel the kids went straight to sleep without any fuss which was incredible as I’d envisioned real issues with the four of us sharing a room for a week. And again, to add to that incredible SUSPENSE you’ve already been waiting in, I won’t reveal how project get some sleep on holiday progressed til next time…

Finally! Paddling Pool Weather!

Last week, while parts of England were having a heat wave of 40 degrees and sun, we were having a heat wave of muggy overcast days and hot showers. We planned a work BBQ based on the weather forecast and, as expected, it changed closer to the date and we ended up taking refuge at a colleagues home from the rain rather than BBQing it up with the Kelpies.

However, we were lucky enough (ha) to have ONE sunny day during this heat wave and the kids and I made the most of it by getting the paddling pool out.

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Sandy and Rozzie inhaled strawberries as I pumped up the pool…

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…and pumped…

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…and pumped…

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…and then worried about repetitive strain injury as the bloody thing was still only half done…

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…and then I finished it and realised I’d only done one part of the blasted thing so I gave up and made it a rather shallow pool (which actually was ideal so Sandy could get in and out at his leisure).

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We put the chute from the climbing frame into the pool to make a waterslide and I poured buckets of water down behind Sandy as he went down.

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Roslyn loved it. Luckily I’d put the water out early and let it heat up over lunch so it wasn’t too chilly for little skinny bear.

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Much splashing fun!

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Water slide King.

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We then had a BBQ with home made elderflower champagne (a post on that to follow!) which was the lovely end to a fab day. Here’s hoping there will be one or two more before the end of summer.

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Soon it will be all systems go for our holiday which I don’t think I’ve mentioned on here yet. We are going to York for two days, then Sheffield to see my Great Aunt Marjorie, on to Derby to have a MASSIVE third birthday party with Sandy’s mumsnet group, on to Portmeirion in Wales for two nights and up to the Lakes for two before heading home. I’m quite excited! We’ve planned lots of exciting outings on the trip and (apart from sharing a room the four of us each night!) can’t wait for our first holiday as a family of four!

National Museum of Rural Life

One of the National Trust for Scotland locations is the National Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride. I’d never been before but the kids had with Pa, who had a membership before we did. We went twice in the last two weeks on dry, warm days.

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Roslyn Lounging on the bridge. As you do.

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This time we met up with our friends Vicki and Rohan too which was great as we’ve not seen as much of them due to work constraints.

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The first time we went we took the tractor (dougal the shoogle) up to the farm and saw all the animals which was great! This time we stayed at the Museum and the park.

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Here they are happy in the Tractor barn, watching a presentation and snacking away.

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After the museum we went to the play park which is thankfully enclosed, allowing little runners and crawlers to be free range.

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Their favourite bit (apart from the swings as they are a current obsession of my two) is the old tractor. They could spend hours here happily harvesting away.

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Excellent sharing going on right here.

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There is a lot more to do which we have not yet had a chance to explore there so I’m sure we will be back many times. It’s ideal because it has indoor and outdoor activities so even in winter we can have fun.

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We had a lovely afternoon with Vicki and Rohan catching up and went for dinner after too.

5 Ways Being a Mum Made me a Better Person

Something I keep coming back to recently is how I’ve changed in the last three years. I think of how I handle things and imagine how different these scenarios would have been prior to becoming a Mum. I’ve learned a lot since having them and in some ways it feels like I’ve done a decade’s worth of personal development in less than a third of the time. There are character traits I’ve toned down, or lost completely, and new attributes I’ve gained. Nearly all of this change has been positive and it’s a nice feeling to know that not only did I gain two new people in the last three years, I also received a better me.

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Patient

I’ve never been a patient person. I do things quickly or not at all, and those who do things slowly or ineffectively would have been disregarded. While being impatient can be positive – in relation to getting things done – it was always something I disliked about myself but found very hard to change. Changing any part of your character is hard, and without changing the structure around yourself it is nigh on impossible. I had all I needed pre-children and thus not enough impetus to change. But of course when Sandy exploded it my life things did change and I found it very difficult to adapt; the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in fact. But the result of this was that my patience has grown. I doubt I will ever be described as patient, but being a little less impatient is progress enough for me, and I continue to work on it. Being unable to rush things – like rocking a baby to sleep, getting a newborn tummy full, or managing out the door on time despite last minute nappy changes – forced me to be patient.

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Selfless

Having children has also forced me to put other people’s needs ahead of my own desires. I realise now that all my decision making pre-babies seemed to myself to be normal, but was in fact entirely selfish. I was just so caught up in my own life – that being me doing what I wanted – that I literally couldn’t see other people’s going on beside mine. It feels awful to admit that but because being selfish didn’t bring me direct harm I never realised or changed. It wasn’t until being selfish resulted in a lot of crying and heartache that I realised how self-centred I was. It’s hard to go from devoting nearly all your resources to yourself to pretty much your entire efforts to another being. Add in the inability to ever step away from these duties and you have a person who is a little bit shell shocked, but emerges from the change as a far more selfless person. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to do things for me, but it’s all too often now that the children have had their second meal of the day and I still haven’t had a drink since I woke.

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Accepting

Stuart often tells me that I am a person who “doesn’t suffer fools” and he is pretty spot on with this analysis. Certainly when it comes to most interactions this remains the case. I find it hard to defer to anyone who seems less qualified or intelligent than me. Yet this also spilled over into disliking those with different opinions, or different aims, or ever different daily schedules. I found it so hard to comprehend why others wouldn’t do things just like me. Since I had the kids though I realise that we are all individuals with different strengths and weaknesses, none less than myself. I see Sandy trying to climb the big kids frame at the park; or Roslyn struggling to get the spoon in her mouth and I realise that with a little patience also comes acceptance of our shortfalls. I can see other people’s views more now and try hard to sit on the fence at least for a little while. Even if something someone does is completely against my perspective it all boils down to me thinking “but that’s someone’s baby”. The idea that this person is to another how Sandy or Roslyn are to me means I can be nothing but accepting.

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Humility

And with this acceptance comes some humility, for you have to admit often that you are not always right. I had a lot of trouble with this before and I literally always thought I was right. Being a high(ish) performer throughout my life (which consisted of only education really) I was pretty arrogant, and I came to the conclusion that continual good results on course work meant continual good results in life; something which couldn’t be further from the truth. People can never always be right – something which is taught well by babies. You try what worked the day before and it doesn’t. You are wrong and there is no logic. You think you are amazing because you got them to eat and then you can’t anymore and all arrogance melts away until it feels like you have no expectation of success left at all, so the only way is up. I used to be too confident, and then I lost it all following Sandy, but it’s been coming back and I’m hopeful my children have taught me to balance arrogance and humility.

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Adaptable

Finally, I am infinitely more adaptable than I was pre-children. Not only was I forced to be flexible in relation to plans, timings and my own wishes, it was demanded of me that I take a myriad of tasks and somehow fit them all in to a day, despite respite from being needed by children being a few minute spells, sporadically scattered throughout the day. So I email while I feed and I shower with them. Errands are done on the way to work and anything else requires a joint nap. It’s hard to complete tasks with constant interruption and never your whole focus, but it is achievable. I used to write on my CV about how efficient I was and laugh now, knowing the powers I now possess for getting stuff done in a frenzy.

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I constantly feel grateful to Sandy and Roslyn, not only for bringing themselves to me, but bringing a better me along with them. Nobody likes change, but sometimes when it happens, the positives that come from it are worth the anguish endured in adapting.

Dummies: Good or Bad?

Like pretty much most mums-to-be, I firmly advocated that I would not be giving my baby a dummy. I don’t know why I felt that way, but I did. When Sandy arrived he fed. And he fed. And he fed and fed and fed and we pretty much got to the point where we knew he wasn’t hungry anymore and just feeding because he liked it. Being recently kidnapped from a time when I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, I found the transition to being at a little scrap of flesh’s beck and call 24 hours a day rather constraining. And frustrating. And nervous breakdown enducing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a Mum, and I adored breastfeeding, but that Stuart couldn’t just take over drove me a little batty. So we relented and popped that infamous bit of plastic in his mouth and he finallystopped sucking on me for enough time that I could shower, eat and just generally restore a drop of sanity to my life. From that moment on the dummy was never out of sight and it stayed firmly in his little mouth at several times a day for the next two and a half years.

At first I was ashamed of it. I remember vividly carrying him in his sling. He was sleeping with his dummy in and I was approaching the NCT baby meet up group and I slipped the dummy out of his mouth as I entered the room, hiding it. I couldn’t be sure where this embarrassment came from but it was certainly there. After a few weeks though I stopped caring as I realised a lot of mums were sticking fake nipples in their babies faces and, more importantly, these babies were not crying. We picked up many dummies and helpful clips to keep them in place. They littered his cot and the bottom of my bag, and if I was ever without one sheer panic set in. The dummy was there to stay, and it did.

When Roslyn came around then my pre-Sandy concerns over dummies were of course non-existent. In the top drawer of her dresser lay several brand new dummies, in the brand that Sandy had enjoyed, and a new strap too. We were all set for her to suck away on them to her heart’s content. Of course life being the way it is Roslyn decided that no piece of plastic was going to replace her Mummy and gagged and chocked as soon as the thing approached her lips. She even once projectile vomited as I placed it gently in her mouth, such was her aversion. I tried without fail, putting it in when she was upset (nope), when she was already asleep (double nope) and leaving them lying around her when she was old enough to grab them (yeah right). In the car she gleefully played with the dummy on its strap until she was tired then she threw it across the back seat and cried until I pulled the car over in some ridiculous spot and fed her standing up outside the back door, slipping her back in the seat and racing off so she would finally rest. The girl hated dummies, and I am still at a loss how to get her to settle without a nipple in her mouth.

Still, despite my pushing the dummy on to Roslyn, there was a little part of me which felt proud that she wouldn’t take it. I really, really do not know what that is. I’ve racked my brain, thinking of my initial aversion and I can only assume it is deep seated in society and culture but I still can’t put my finger on it. I wish I didn’t feel it, because it means I’m judging, and I wish I hadn’t felt it, and had just given it to Sandy in the first place.

But what of the actual differences in life with and without dummies. Honestly, there is quite a lot, because – putting it bluntly – I am now the dummy. Roslyn needs me in a way Sandy never did. Don’t get me wrong, he loved and wanted me, and preferred me to others, yet he was happy to go off (dummy in mouth) with any of his family. Roslyn on the other hand took a significant amount of easing in to being away from me. In fact I don’t think she even did leave me until she was 9 months old, even for a moment. I remember my Mum taking her out for an hour – a mere hour! – at 10 months old and returning to tell me she had been fine, but was getting upset at the end of the hour, needing me. Me, of course, being my boobs. And it is still the same. I just went to get her from her cot and carried her down the stairs as she pulled at my top and shouted “boobs boobs juice!” (something she replicated during my PhD supervisors review meeting, rather embarrassingly). When I am there, Roslyn will not be with another. She cries for me even though I am a metre from her. When I’m gone she is fine however and I can only sum up that it is like leaving a dummy on the floor in the room with the baby and keeping the baby from crawling over to get it. I know I am much more to her than a dummy, but it is being her dummy that stops her from needing me quite so much.

Would I change it though? At this point no, I wouldn’t. Mostly because I have persevered this far and it would be like putting that work straight in the bin. Would I go back and magically have her take a dummy? Maybe. Yet I coped fine in the end and I can only attribute that to experience. With Sandy I was so unprepared and acclimatised to life with a needy little sucker that the relief the dummy got me was far more important than it would have been if Roslyn had taken it. It occurs to me that my aversion to dummies stems probably from their being unnatural. Let’s face it, hundreds of years ago there weren’t dummies and women coped just fine. Yet life was geared for coping in a way that it isn’t now. When rearing children was the focus of life and a bad night’s clusterfeeding could easily result in a day resting rather than doing all the things necessary in modern society. And even if it was harder than that, and more needed done, the extended family would have been far closer, far more involved and far more able to allow the Mum to cope.

In sum I think of dummies as a modern answer to modern motherhood, a means of alleviating the pressure on mums who are the sole focus of their infants’ lives, but also people with demands of the home and work and friendship. People who are used to having other interests and purposes than raising children and who are not prepared in the same way for the task as they once would be. I’m fine with Roslyn not taking a dummy because our breastfeeding relationship is closer, more natural and longer than it was with Sandy. And I am fine with Sandy taking the dummy because he enjoyed it, he slept far better than Roslyn, and I was able to continue my PhD, my life and my sanity during that delicate new mum era.

Pretty Muddy 5k Race!

A while back my Mum and I signed up to do Cancer Research’s Race For Life Pretty Muddy 5k and we completed it last weekend!

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Here are our before and after selfies! You will notice the temp tattoos Mum has on, well I only had one of my four on because the other three ended up on the rest of the family…

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Roslyn got the pink army one, Sandy got “hell hath no fury” on his little bicep, and Stuart proudly wore “Stronger, Braver, Pinker” ;)

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We ran with a group of ladies from the gym we go to, Bodymorph Fitness in Hamilton. As you can see, we were clean in our before shot, and not so much in the after…

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However, Mum was miffed as I seemed to come out cleaner than her. The reason was clear as when you approached an obstacle people were spraying water and flinging shovels of mud at you, but only if you weren’t going fast enough! As you can see poor Mum got a pile of mud thrown at her as she entered the mud bath!

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I loved it! And I was very happy with the time of 30 minutes considering my PB 5k is 28:50 not including any obstacles!

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In fact it has spurred me on and Stuart and I have now shaken hands on taking part in a tough mudder sometime in the future!

Homemade Elderflower and Orange Cordial

For the last two years my friend Kris has given us a bottle of Elderflower champagne and it is hands down my favourite alcoholic drink ever (probably because it’s sweet and not too alcoholic!) Elderflower drinks always feel so summery and fresh, so I have decided to make my own foray into making drinks from foraged flowers. I’ve taken the first steps in wine making and more will follow in the months to come on that, for now though I have made a delicious cordial that the littles can enjoy too.

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I used a recipe from Rosamond Richardson’s Hedgerow Cookery (my Mum lent me her 1980 edition) swapping lemons for oranges:

20 heads of elderflower
1.75kg sugar
1 pints boiled water
2 sliced oranges

All you need to do is combine it all in a large saucepan or tub and leave for 24 hours, stirring periodically. Then strain it with a jelly bag or piece of muslin…

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… before bottling…

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The resulting cordial is sweet, floral and refreshing. Sandy and Roslyn are big fans of it in sparkling water (“bubble juice”) already!

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We also have been foraging for mayflower to make a mayflower wine. We went out behind the house to the hedgerows to gather as much as we could with a whining Rozzie in tow. I then removed the majority of the greenery and it is in boiled water for 5 days in preparation for wine making.

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There is also a similar vat of elderflowers in preparation too! I’m quite excited for the next step of the process so watch this space for more…!

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Celebrating: Uncle Jamie’s Birthday and Father’s Day

Last weekend we celebrated Uncle Jamie’s birthday. Sandy and Rozzie were all too happy to assist with the opening of presents…

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Roslyn was rather taken with the condiment bench we got Jamie.

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We were meant to have a BBQ in the sun, and the weather had been wonderful just the day before but sadly it was overcast and pretty cold. Luckily Dad and Jamie cooked outside and we all ate from the warmth of the house!

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We’ve also been celebrating Father’s Day this morning. Sandy and Roslyn got Daddy a massive chocolate coin with “NO. 1 Dad” on…

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…and two new canvases of themselves…

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I’d canvased all my friends about which of these two pictures I should get for the kids to give him and the verdict was completely split between the cute hug and the fun (and better composed) one. So I just got both and found wall space to hang them one above the other. I think it looks pretty good!

Stuart and the kids are out to Granda’s while I wait in as the electrician puts new sockets and lights in the loft (for a sort of conversion, more to follow on that!) and later my Dad is coming over with Mum. Then the lucky parents that Stuart and I are get to head into town for dinner and a film while Tate and Pa babysit, woohoo!!

Happy Father’s Day everyone!