Happy Birthday!

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So yesterday C turned one!

*insert comment here about time flying etc*

The day started inauspiciously, with me waking up having lost my voice – an apparent additional effect of the cold I haven’t been able to shake for weeks, and which I must say Daddy didn’t try particularly hard to hide his apparent glee at.

C opted, for once, to sleep in, and as G was adamant that she wanted to help open her presents and cards before she went to school, we had to wake C from her slumber to get to the exciting bits. I’m pretty sure that won’t always be the case if G is anything to go by!

Although C will probably moan about it in years to come, one of the benefits of having her birthday close to Christmas is that we were able to use it to kick start our Christmas break early. And with big sis in school during the day C got some rare undivided attention from Mummy and Daddy together.

We’ve developed a bit of a tradition for G’s birthday where we make an annual trip to Chester Zoo. We wanted to find something similar for C, but choosing something that wasn’t Christmassy was a bit of a challenge.

We eventually settled on a trip to our local Sealife centre, and despite being a little uncertain about how wise it was to visit the Trafford Centre a week before Christmas, it actually worked out perfectly – lots of options for lunch, and a chance to finish off some Christmas shopping whilst C had a nap. We pretty much had Sealife to ourselves too – it seems Mad Friday is actually not a bad day to go to a shopping centre!

C loved the Sealife centre, and was fascinated by the lights, projections and of course the fish. Interestingly despite not having yet seen ‘Finding Nemo’ she was most excited by the clown fish, and the Sharks and rays in the underwater tunnel were a big hit too.

It was also yet another occasion when I was grateful to have our sling – C was at the perfect height to view the fish in their tanks, and I got to fully appreciate and interact with her as she cooed, gurgled and clapped our way round.

From this vantage point she also picked herself out a birthday toy from the shop – a cute turtle soft toy which she was particularly attached to until the moment I paid for it, at which point she threw it on the floor – typical!

After picking G up from school we headed off for another annual tradition – a weekend in a holiday cottage in Shropshire with friends from university days. Continuing the fishy theme we saved C’s ‘fish pond’ birthday cake for then, and she seemed suitably bemused at us singing happy birthday and blowing out the candle for her. It didn’t stop her tucking into said cake with gusto mind, which I was secretly pleased at after slaving for 2 and a half hours making and decorating it the night before!

Clearly thinking that she was the guest of honour at events, she proceeded to make sure she didn’t miss out on any of the evening’s party, to my mild disappointment having selfishly hoped for a couple of hours child free time. But she was on particularly good form so I really can’t begrudge her!

And so moving swiftly on from birthdays, today is our first ‘christmas day’ – a practice run perhaps, except one with rather more people than our family affair next week, and for which I’ve managed to get out of cooking duties, instead sitting here writing this while relishing the smell of gammon cooking downstairs. And with our annual gathering being boosted this year by the addition of a plethora of babas, both C and G have plenty of little playmates to keep them occupied.

Despite the sleepless night last night, it’s a great way to kick off the festive season.

See, having your birthday at Christmas isn’t that bad after all.

Born and Bred

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My loose idea of nationality has always been based on the phrase ‘born and bred’.

I was ‘born and bred’ in Wales, with Welsh culture and traditions, so I consider myself Welsh, even though my father is English. And my other half is Scottish given he was born and bred in Scotland, despite him actually having no Scottish ancestors and in fact having stronger Welsh ancestry than me.

So we had to come to terms quite early on that our children were going to be ‘born and bred’ English.

Not that that’s a problem of course. When she was small I still snuck G into a Welsh rugby shirt to cheer on the Six Nations, bought her a Welsh outfit for St David’s Day, and taught her a Welsh nursery rhyme to sing to C. I’m not sure how long I’ll get away with that but I’ll do so happily for as long as she’ll let me.

Recently when it’s come to sporting events we’ve found we’ve had to swallow our respective national pride, for example when G declared that ‘Scotland need to learn how to win better’ at football, and when she announced that what she really wanted was an England football kit.

We’ve skirted round the issue of accent before too, and we were secretly pleased when moving from Oldham to Salford somewhat softened G’s pronunciation of ‘mun-keh’ (monkey, if you weren’t sure) and ‘mum-eh’.

But being brought up in the north of England was always going to rub off on the girls, and it seems it’s already having an effect on little C, who has just this week started using what seems to be her first proper word, in context.

Mummy? Daddy? No, nothing quite so simple as that. C’s first word is ‘hiya’.

Repeated over and over again, complete with beaming little smiles, all she needs is a mini parka jacket to complete the look. She’s already got the slightly drunken looking swagger when she tries to walk, and I’m fully expecting her to follow it up with ‘y’aright?’ any day soon.

I’m tempted to brush it off with the thought that ‘hiya’ is a much easier sound for little ones to copy than ‘bore da’ or ‘ay ay, fit like?’, but I think I’m just going to have to take the plunge and fully embrace the Manc-ness of my children.

Now where can I buy a couple of kids Stone Roses tops?

On the move

She crawls! SHE CRAWLS!

I may have been worried (in the way that mums seem to worry unnecessarily) that I would miss her first moves, but C’s decision to get moving on my Final Days of maternity leave (capitalisation intended) was really a rather apt and beautiful way to send me off.

It’s perfect timing you see – C finally decides the world is a place to be explored under her own volition, and I head back to work and leave the inevitable chaos to ensue at the childminders house. Selfish, moi?

I had debated for a while how we should spend these last few days of freedom – should I tick off a few more on my list of places I wanted to go in the summer holidays and never got round to? Or spend them cuddling on the sofa, savouring the last times I’d be able to crack through half an on demand box set before lunch?

The reality was somewhere in the middle, dialling down the inferred ‘glamour’ just, erm, a few notches.

Instead of cuddling on the sofa we ended up waiting in the doctors surgery for a last minute appointment for the cold-turned-bad which had left C wheezy and sleepless.

And instead of gallivanting around the regions favourite tourist attractions we instead went on a tour of the childrns centres of Bolton (yeah, glamour eh?) distributing copies of our local NCT branch magazine I’d edited.

Yeah you heard that right. I edited a magazine. Two in fact. And I thought the only skills I’d learn on maternity leave were of patience and parenting,

It worked out pretty well really. Poorly C has never napped well in her cot, so got a decent sleep in the car as we drove around, meaning she was full of smiles and cuddles when we did stop to play, and refreshed enough to demonstrate and perfect her new found crawling skills.

Working Mum

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It’s hard to believe time is ticking down to the end of my maternity leave. At the end of November I’ll be back to work full time, and until then I’m working 1-2 days a week as ‘keep in touch’ days.

And so we’ve had to address the issue that all working parents face – who is going to care for our beloved little ones whilst we’re at work?

Whilst we’ve used nurseries in the past we’re lucky enough to have an awesome childminder for G, and I knew all along I wanted C to go to her when I went back to work. So over the past few weeks we’ve reached another milestone in C’s development – her first days with the childminder!

The picture shows the result of one of her first settling in sessions – her very first artwork and a baby fast asleep when I went to collect her, so despite her tears and protestations at me leaving she can’t have had too bad a time!

And of course there were tears, but to be fair at the moment we get ‘are you leaving me forever?’ tears if I go to the toilet or just close the car door so I can walk round to the drivers side.

There’s a big part of me that’s looking forward to going back to work, and my keep in touch days so far have reassured me that I do still have a brain, albeit one which hasn’t stretched its legs for a while. But at the same time I’m nervous of many aspects of it, not least the practicality of being a full time working mum and physically fitting everything into the week, particularly as C currently isn’t sleeping through at night.

I guess I also had the idea that by having a year off on maternity leave, I would have seen lots of the ‘first’ milestones before going back to work. Yet C is still not crawling, let alone walking (lazybones!), has no discernible words, hasn’t yet learnt to clap or point, and decided to use two of her settling in sessions to learn to wave and stand up (aided of course).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in the slightest bit concerned about her development, I guess she just still feels like a little baby to me. I’ll miss seeing those little developments when I’m working full time, when five days out of the week disappear in a blur of getting everyone up, dressed, out; and home, bathed and to bed.

But needs must, and I’m secure in my decision to go back to work full time being the best decision for our family. And I know both G and C will thrive and be happy with their childminder, as well as being glad they can play together before and after school.

And the one thing that will definitely be happy about me going back to work will be our bank balance, that’s for sure.

I’d love to hear how others have managed the return to work, especially any hints and tips on how to make the transition easier and to keep the week running smoothly!

Little Sniffles

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C has always been partial to a good old fashioned cold. She got her first one at just five weeks old and since then we’ve been happily passing them back and forwards between each other, each seemingly getting more and more extreme as we get closer to winter.

Oh yeah, and the so called ‘cold season’ has barely even begun, hasn’t it? Somebody save us!

Much as I enjoy rating my youngest daughter’s snot bubbles on size, colour and durability (although I’m disappointed that I’m yet to catch one on camera for her much vaunted 18th birthday album), I definitely don’t enjoy the impact on her already fragile sleep pattern, especially as I’m heading back to work soon. And believe me, I don’t function very well without my sleep!

I remember only too clearly the night that I dumped a poor sleepless snotty C in her Daddy’s arms and announced I was going to the 24 hour Tesco to try and buy something to help her sleep.  I came back not with a bottle of brandy as Daddy feared (though it would probably have helped me if not her) but with a saline nasal spray and a plug in inhaler, having discovered that there’s very little you can actually give to a poorly baby.  I then discovered that the plug in was not a great match for a summer mini heatwave, given it relies on having doors and windows firmly shut.

It’s fair to say it wasn’t exactly my most successful shopping trip.

So I was chuffed to bits when Dentinox asked me to try out some of their products to help deal with the sniffles. We’ve used their sticky eye wipes in the past to help with C’s blocked tear duct, and our parcel from them included an inhaler dummy, vapour oil, medicine dispenser and nasal aspirator.  After I got over the ‘ew’ factor of sucking baby snot directly out of her nose USING MY MOUTH (!!!), I realised that it was either that or continue spending inordinate amounts of time wrestling a tissue around her face, spreading more snot over her than on the tissue thanks to her protests.

First up, the inhaler dummy.  Compared with the plug ins, this seems a geniously simple idea. You place a few drops of the vapour oil on a pad on the front of the dummy, close it up and pop the dummy in baby’s mouth. The vapour is exactly where it’s most needed, and safely enclosed so you don’t need to worry about baby ingesting the oils.  And you don’t have to seal the room shut to keep the vapours in.

C took to this like a pro. Despite the fact that she’ll only accept a dummy for the first five minutes of going to bed, it was long enough for her to settle off to sleep, and even when she was asleep it was still near enough to have the desired effect.  I was also pleased to find that the oil didn’t have that eye watering kick to it that some others do.

We had less success with the medicine dispenser unfortunately, thanks to C’s new found dummy aversion.  But having managed to spray Calpol all over Daddy’s T-shirt (missing C’s mouth by a mere, but vital, inch), I can see how this would be a godsend for babies who haven’t developed C’s fussy tastes.

And so on to the aspirator.  I have to admit I was never convinced by the efficacy of these, but I was impressed, particularly when I realised there was little to no risk of ingesting snot through it.  It seems to work best after using a saline spray (as opposed to the drops which seem next to useless on a wriggly baby), as this loosens the mucous enough to suck it right out of there without having to contemplate the logistics of sticking things up there (not a good idea on any account).  And with her nose a little clearer it made C’s feeding both easier and a hell of a lot quieter, reducing the risk of her waking her sleeping sister with her rather impressive snorts and snores.

All in all the Dentinox products do the job and really do help.  And despite C’s cold we have succeeded this week in achieving the mythical Sleeping Through The Night (TM).  On more than one night.  In a row.

If that’s not a ringing endorsement I don’t know what is.

 

I’ve worked with BritMums on this project with Dentinox and Snufflebabe to test their products during cold season. All opinions are my own. To find out more about the products visit http://www.dentinox.co.uk and http://www.snufflebabe.co.uk.

 

For the love of Onbu

Onbu

I don’t consider myself to be a ‘hippy’ parent (whatever that really means), but I have found myself taking to some decidedly ‘crunchy’ parenting habits, including my penchant for cloth nappies, breastfeeding, baby led weaning and of course baby wearing. It’s currently International Baby Wearing Week, so it seemed appropriate to write a little about our baby wearing experience, and one of our favourite carriers.

We started ‘baby wearing’ with G, first with a second hand high street carrier which was fine for a while but did get rather uncomfortable pretty quickly. We had a BabaSling for a while but never really got to grips with it, and then a pouch sling which we were sent by a relative in America which was actually really good until she got a bit heavy for it.

When G decided she didn’t want to use a pram any more we resorted to quite literally carrying her when she was fed up of walking, and as I’d not discovered woven wraps or toddler carriers, I ended up using a HippyChick hip seat – a genius invention until said toddler decides to use her own legs for a change, and leaves you walking around wearing what looks like a slightly bizarre bum bag.

This time round I was keen to find something more practical and, dare I say, a bit more stylish. Not knowing exactly what we wanted I headed for a local sling library. We’re lucky around here to have an abundance of sling libraries where you can try out different types of carriers for a small fee. It’s well worth doing if you’re interested in trying a carrier out, as they aren’t particularly cheap (though they can be brought ‘preloved’ and they do hold their value very well for resale).

And so since C was born I’ve used pretty much most types of carrier – a stretchy Moby wrap, Connecta, half buckle, woven wraps, an ABC (Action Baby Carrier), ring slings and mei tais.

I like using a carrier largely for simplicity – we live so close to the school that by the time I’ve got the pram out and C appropriately dressed and strapped in for the school run we could be there already, plus the rigmarole of reversing the procedure ten minutes later! And I have to admit to really enjoying carrying C – the interaction you get when carrying is far stronger than we would get in the pram, and she’s more content and alert, able to see more around her and interact with more people on the way.

Despite trying so many slings there was one type I really fancied but which I couldn’t find anywhere.

An Onbu, or Onbuhimo, is a traditional Japanese carrier. It’s similar to a mei tai in that it has a fabric body and fabric straps to tie into place , but instead of a waist strap it has a ring on each side which the straps pass through. It means a little less tying than a mei tai, also you can put it on whilst holding baby, you don’t need to put them down first. You can even tie it ‘on the go’ if, like me, you’re constantly late for the school run!

With none around for me to try, I happened to stumble upon some tutorials online for making mei tais, and it occurred to me that an onbu should be just as easy.

I didn’t take step by step pictures and to be honest kind of made it up as I went along so I’m not going to post a full tutorial – I used a few different existing tutorials as a guide including this one and this one, although I used an existing carrier as a template and went a bit overboard on making sure it was strong enough to carry the weight!

I’ve used it now for probably about 6 months, both front and back carrying – for the school run, woodland walks, trips round the shops and even just to get the washing done at home. And I love it! I don’t really know why they’re not seen very much over here but they definitely should be.

The biggest plus for me is the speed of using it for a back carry. I pop it on the bed/grass/seat of the car with the straps already threaded through the rings, lie C on top, tuck her legs through and use a ‘superman toss’ to lift her onto my back. From there you just slip your arms through the straps like a rucksack, pull tight and tie the straps together in front. Voila!

One day I might brave making a video to show you what I mean, and quite how easy it is.

Whilst I’ve grown to love my woven wrap, I’ve not perfected back carries with it so the Onbu is still a fail safe favourite for me and I’m hoping it will last us some time!

Party girl

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Last weekend was G’s 5th birthday party. In fact the whole weekend was spent celebrating this event, with our now traditional trip to Chester Zoo on Saturday, and her superhero-football themed birthday party on Sunday. The theme, of course, being what you end up with when you have a fickle nearly five year old who can’t decide what type of party she wants.

It was also a weekend for fancy dress, with G’s gift from us for our trip to the zoo a homemade (because you can’t seem to buy them anywhere) Go Diego Go outfit. Slightly obscure, perhaps, but G liked it, and rounded off the day by collecting her own Baby Jaguar (Diego’s sidekick) from the shop.

For the party, we already had a superhero outfit for G, and partnered her cape, mask and cuffs with a suitably pretty party dress for the occasion. C, however, had clearly grown out of her last superhero outfit, and needed something new.

I’d left it too late to make something for her myself, and quite frankly had worn myself out baking and decorating what I must say was a rather epic looking birthday cake. But thankfully M&S came to the rescue, and tucked away in the boys section (because only boys like to wear superhero stuff, obviously…), I found a rather cool superhero Tshirt complete with attached cape and velcro strips on the front so that you could choose your own superhero word for the front from the included letters – zap, pow or, if you’re a nearly five year old who hasn’t learnt to spell yet, zpo. Teamed with a tutu skirt to up the girly factor she was set to go.

And she came very close to ‘going’ as well – for the last couple of weeks she’s been trying very hard indeed to crawl, and coming very close. She’s not quite figured out what to do with her legs though, so luckily for me I can still put her down and be sure she’ll still be around about there when I turn around.

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C thoroughly enjoyed the party, being cooed and fussed over by some of G’s friends throughout. However she didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as her big sister, whose football coaches from Diddikicks truly delivered by arriving not only with a host of superhero games for the occasion, but also rocking some rather ace superhero outfits themselves!

My own half hearted attempt at a superhero outfit for myself (a cut up Tshirt dress using the neckband to tie it around the neck) was testament to my less than perfect organisation skills for the day, which saw us blowing up balloons in the hallway, hastily making up packed lunches as the children arrived, and stacking cakes at the back of the hall as overexcited 4 year olds ran around our legs. But no matter, they all seemed to enjoy themselves and G left one very happy, and very lucky girl, laden down by rather a lot of lovely and very generous presents!

Party done, the only thing that remained was to sit back with a glass of wine. And boy did I need it.

Play centre next year?

Britain’s Driest Nappy vs Britain’s Prettiest Nappy

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I’ve already written about my reasons for using cloth nappies – mainly the fact that I hate taking the bins out, and especially bins filled with festering baby poo, urgh!

So when I saw that Pampers were asking people to do the ‘Britain’s Driest Nappy’ challenge it got me thinking.

First, I came up with all the excuses for why ‘dry’ wasn’t the be all and end all – the waste argument of course; the cost savings when using reusables; the chemicals in disposable nappies; the fact that feeling damp helps babies potty train earlier, etc etc.

And then I realised that I actually have no idea how cloth nappies compare as far as keeping baby dry is concerned.

I know that we only get the occasional wee leak, usually when I’ve left the nappy on too long, and that despite C being a very heavy wetter we’ve found a nappy that copes perfectly well with being on for 13 hours overnight, whether she sleeps through as she’s finally begun to recently, or if she wakes for sometimes 2-3 feeds which means she wees more overnight.

And I know that we pretty much NEVER suffer the clothes-wrecking poosplosions that I remember only too well from our disposable days and see and hear other Mums talking about.

But how dry do they keep C’s little bum? Is the poor girl sodden the whole time that I’m blissfully cooing over the pretty prints and colours?

I thought I’d better put it to the test.

This isn’t about knocking people who choose to use disposable nappies by the way – whilst I’m a cloth nappy advocate I would never judge another mum’s choices and cloth nappies aren’t for everyone (incidentally, that’s why I help run a cloth nappy library which lets people try cloth nappies for themselves before committing to buying their own).

And I’m not in any way trying to knock Pampers either – they’re our nappy of choice when we do use disposables – yes although we mostly use cloth we do use disposables occasionally as well.

Rather, I was genuinely curious to see how the nappies I choose to use feel against C’s skin.

I picked out one of my favourite nappies (a Bumgenius Freetime, if you’re interested), a Pampers Baby Dry nappy that I had to hand, some water, tissue, and a terribly angled camera phone that beautifully accentuates my double chin.

Impressed? I was, and I have to confess a little relieved too! I was actually expecting a little bit of dampness to come through the fleece, so was surprised that the tissue was pretty much bone dry.

What I forgot to mention is that the fleece liner also makes it really easy to chuck poo down the toilet without having to touch it – but that’s got nothing to do with Britain’s Driest Nappy so it’s not really relevant anyway. It’s just usually one of the first things I get asked about when talking about cloth nappies!

I should add that the slight dampness from the Pampers nappy was really nothing to write home about, it was, in fairness, really very good at locking away the moisture.

I’m just pleased that I don’t have to rely on finding excuses to justify my choice to use cloth nappies, and can rest assured that C’s bum is as dry as it is pretty.

If you’re interested in trying cloth nappies you can do so cheaply, and in some cases for free, by getting in touch with your local cloth nappy library via the UK Cloth Nappy Library Network, or by searching on their map of UK Cloth Nappy Libraries.  Nappy Libraries offer advice on finding the right nappies for you, as well as hiring out kits so that you can try before you buy.

The things we forget

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Even when we keep a blog or diary, it’s amazing how many of the little things we forget as the kids get older.

I was reminded of this last night. We don’t often have a babysitter, but it was our wedding anniversary so we booked one of our ‘regular’ babysitters for a night out.

When I say ‘regular’, the last time she came to stay was over a year ago, long before C arrived on the scene (you can tell how often we get out..!).

Talking her through the bedtime routine she reminded me that last time she came G was going through a phase of insisting that she wore one sock to bed. Just the one, and it had to be on the right foot, if I remember correctly.

Needless to say, G no longer wears one sock to bed. But it did get me thinking of all the other little things that she grows up and out of, but I don’t really want to forget.

Like the fact that for about a year when she first learnt to talk bananas were known as ‘lurger-lurgers’.

And the fact that she calls own label Shreddies ‘owl treats’ or ‘superhero snacks’ based on the picture on the box (guess where we shop?!).

The way if I pretend to pick her up like a baby she shouts ‘I’m not a baby! Look! I’ve got long legs!”.

Or the way she would crawl around the house for hours if we’d let her, pretending to be a dog.

Yeah ok, so that last one gets a bit annoying after a while.

Anyhow, my point still stands. I love seeing my children growing up. But I don’t want to forget the little things that make us laugh and smile along the way.

C’s still developing her little personality. She’s already proving to be a little explorer, determined to pull on, open and attempt to climb into every thing she can find, despite not having learnt to crawl yet (although she’s trying very hard).

She hates being on her tummy, and will only tolerate being laid down for a short while – ever since she learnt to sit she wants to sit and watch, reach and grab at anything within a 3 foot radius.

She smiles and laughs at the sight of her big sister or daddy coming home from school or work, and stares fixedly at people she doesn’t yet know, taking everything in before she decides whether she’s going to smile at them or not.

And she certainly knows how to get what she wants, mostly by shouting and looking at you pointedly until you figure out what it is. The quote “she may be small, but she is fierce” seems rather apt for my littlest girl!

If you’re interested, we had a lovely night out for our anniversary, with all you can eat ribs and chicken at the Southern Eleven restaurant in Manchester. And we came home almost too full to sample the cake I’d made earlier in the day at G’s request, mostly so that she could decorate it in her usual inimitable style.

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Coincidentally this evening, the story of how the husband and I first met has been immortalised in a BBC Online news story. No, our anniversary isn’t that big news – it turns out the venue where we first met, The Cockpit in Leeds, has closed down.

Sad times all round, and an opportunity to reminisce over the little things that happened during our university days, that otherwise might be forgotten.

Earth Mother

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Growing up in the countryside I never thought I’d ever be a city girl, so I’m still kind of surprised that I’ve spent most of my adult life in cities and, god forbid, am bringing my children up in the suburbs surrounded by houses and cars, rather than by animals and fields.

Sadly I’ve realised that sacrificing the view of cows from my kitchen window is better than sacrificing hours of my time every day commuting.

But living in the suburbs shouldn’t and doesn’t stop us from getting out in the countryside and going a bit earth mother every so often.

Every summer since I met my husband I’ve suggested going strawberry picking. We’ve never actually made it, so it’s become a bit of a running joke between us. And once again this year we missed strawberry picking season, but at a loose end this weekend we decided to make a trip out to Kenyon Hall Farm near Wigan, where they have a year-round supply of pick your own fruit and veg, a playground, farm shop and of course a cafe.

Well, we can’t be leaving all the urban comforts behind now, can we?

Whilst G excitedly ran up and down the rows of peas, sweetcorn and blackberries, C took it all in from her vantage point up on my back – our trusty woven wrap being far more useful in this case than a pram.

We came home happy, with a slight pink tinge from the late sunmer sun, three corn on the cob, a punnet full of garden peas, and a rather sad handful of blackberries – the blackberry bushes having apparently been stripped by visitors earlier in the day.

After teaching G how to shell peas (another ‘earth mother’ moment right there), they made it into that evening’s Sunday roast, with the rest of our haul saved for another day.

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At 8 and a half months old, C is perfecting her pincer grip, and this coupled with inheriting her big sister’s love of food meant she made short work of dinner, peas included.

I had a fleeting realisation when I looked back at the photos that if we go again next summer it’ll be with with not one but two children running up and down the rows.

Time really does fly, doesn’t it?