Our Insect Lore butterflies

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Back in Bristol, before having kids, I worked in nurseries with little children. One of the hardest parts of the role is trying to come up with new, exciting and educational activities all of the time. Yet every summer, year after year, we’d order caterpillars from Insect Lore and spend the next few weeks watching and talking about the life cycle of the butterfly. It was always one of my favourite things to do, and the children were always mesmerised! So when a relative gave me some cash and asked me to spend it on something fun for Iris I knew exactly what to do.

I saw a TV advert with an offer for 10 caterpillars for the price of 5, and ordered immediately. The caterpillars arrived in their little tubs within a few days. The food they need is already contained in the tubs, and the rate that they eat and grow is almost unbelievable! I had to be very careful because Iris can be quite heavy handed and I was worried she’d shake the tubs. All of the caterpillars survived life with Iris, and once they were huge and the food was gone they transformed into chrysalides overnight. A few days later, we watched in awe as the butterflies emerged and stretched their wings. Iris couldn’t quite believe it, and insisted on standing on a chair in the kitchen and watching them flap around.

As wonderful as the caterpillar and chrysalides stages are, they’re difficult to photograph. I managed a few poorly lit snaps, but nothing worth sharing. Really it’s all just a countdown to release day. The best part of the whole process!

We headed into the wooded area where we walk Seb the dog near our house, and we let them go. They seemed almost reluctant at first, landing on our hats and arms, but then off they flew one by one. I have no real idea why, but it made me feel quite emotional. Maybe it was Iris’s cries of ‘bye bye butterfly’ that did it. It’s quite an experience, and weeks later Iris still talks about it. We’ll definitely be doing it all again next summer!

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*We paid for our caterpillars and haven’t worked with Insect Lore for this post. We just really enjoyed the experience and wanted to share!*

 

 

 

 

 

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Our family photo shoot with Sweet Whimsy Photography

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After writing our our #sweetsummerchallenge summer to-do list, we arranged to meet up with the lovely Donna of Sweet Whimsy Photography for one of her out in the wild photo shoots. I’ve never been a big fan of a studio photo shoot. They make me feel nervous and then I can’t manage a natural smile. The little ones are the same. I took them for a studio shoot quite recently and Iris went all shy while Astrid got upset. They managed one decent photo but neither kid is smiling. It was good enough for a grandparent’s mantelpiece, but not the kind of picture that brings back memories and makes you feel warm inside. For that you need to capture kids in their own natural environment, doing what they do best. The great outdoors!

We headed to Hendrewennol Fruit Farm near Cardiff to tick strawberry picking off our summer bucket list. It’s a favourite of ours, and a place we often pop into after a visit to the nearby Warren Mill Farm Park. As well as fruit fields, they have a lovely play area and the coffee is pretty good too. Donna had never been before, but was happy to meet us there and I’m pretty sure she’ll be going back with her own daughter!

Iris really got stuck in. Once we convinced her to only pick red ones and not the green ones, she filled her basket pretty quickly. It was a damp drizzly sort of Saturday morning, but we’ve never been the sort of family to let the weather hold us back. Even Astrid was happy to sit on (and eat!) the wet grass, and she really enjoyed her first taste of strawberries. You’re not really supposed to eat them until after you leave, but Astrid is too little to read the signs! It didn’t take long for the little ones to completely forget that Donna and her camera were there. I’m pretty sure Trevor had forgotten too. If I wasn’t so self conscious I could have done the same, but cameras pointed at me make me feel nervous! I needn’t have worried. I don’t look nervous and I’m pretty pleased with the shots of me. I have to admit that my favourites are the images of Trevor and Iris, who were having a really great time together!

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The big two kids were in Lanzarote with their mum, lucky things, so they couldn’t be a part of the shoot. It’s a huge shame, but we’ve already decided that we’ll be doing another shoot with Donna in the future and they’ll be included next time. I think we’ll wait until Astrid is walking, so that they can be captured all running together.

I highly recommend Sweet Whimsy Photography if you’re in South Wales and want a family photoshoot that’s a little bit different!

*Donna photographed us for the purpose of this post and for images for her website/blog. We weren’t charged for the shoot.*

Our summer bucket list with #sweetsummerchallenge and Sweet Whimsy Photography

I was recently put in touch with Donna Loring of Sweet Whimsy Photography, a family photographer based nearby in South Wales who is challenging families to write a to do list for summer and then get outdoors and do all the fun stuff! I’m a big fan of a list. Especially a fun list! Definitely preferable to my usual stuff-to-do-around-the-house list. I set to work straight away writing a list, and in the few weeks since we’ve actually managed to do quite a few of these already! It’s been a lot of fun!

Go camping with friends

Splash in the sea

Search rock pools for creatures

Eat chips on the seafront

Go strawberry picking

Paddle in a lake

Climb a mountain

Go geocaching

Walk the dog in the woods

Visit Castell Coch

Take a boat bus from Cardiff Bay

Visit the splash park

Have a picnic

Pop bubbles in the garden

Build sand castles

Ride on steam trains

Camp in the forest

Visit the lido

Fly kites

Wander around a harbour

Painting in the garden

Play in the paddling pool

Have a BBQ

Visit Folly Farm

So if you’re finding yourself stuck for ideas when you wake up on these summer holiday mornings, try sitting down with your family and writing a similar list. Join in by tagging blog posts and pictures with #sweetsummerchallenge on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For more information and some great free print outs and ideas head to Donna’s page here and sign up!

Pop back here tomorrow and I’ll be sharing the wonderful photographs from our shoot with Donna!

A little update 

Well obviously I’ve been more than a little bit rubbish at keeping on top of things recently. 

Whenever I’m struggling and something has to give, it’s always blogging that’s first to go. It’s such a shame because it’s the thing that has the biggest positive impact on how I’m feeling. 

I’m feeling a little better actually. I’ve got some help in the form of medication and things seem brighter. 

 A few weekends ago, just when I desperately needed a little break, we went away camping with a huge group of friends. My friends. Friends I’ve made in the short time since I moved here. It feels so good to be able to say that. Isolation was my biggest fear when I moved, and I can be a bit crap at making new friends. It turns out that having similarly-aged kids in common is great for making friends, although I still felt a little bit like I was forcing myself on people. Between all of us campers we had over 20 children. We managed to camp in a big circle and sort of contain the children’s play area. This was brilliant because we could see them from our camp and didn’t have to go and spend all day standing in a play park. The grown ups could chill too. No matter how much you chill though, camping with four kids is bloody hard work. Especially when two of them are still such little dependent babies. Even though they slept much better than I dared to hope, I was so stressed. I snapped at Trevor plenty of times and I feel awful about it. 

We’ve managed to squeeze in some other fun things recently too, despite being very short of cash. We’re so lucky to have Pontypridd Lido just down the road. It’s amazing and also free to use this year! Thank you EU funding! We don’t go swimming often enough (I can’t take two babies on my own and Trevor works such long hours) so I was stunned, and very very impressed, to find that with armbands Iris can confidently doggy paddle.

On the weekend, in the drizzle, we went to Hendrewennol Fruit Farm for a photoshoot with Donna Loring of Sweet Whimsy Photography as part of her #sweetsummerchallenge (more on that soon!). Despite the weird weather we had a really lovely time and I’m very excited to see the finished pictures. Donna does family photography with a bit of a difference. She doesn’t use a studio and prefers to photograph families as they go about doing their own thing in the great outdoors. It means the pictures are much more natural. We were all fairly covered in mud, grass and squished strawberries by the end, which should make for some interesting shots! I’m really struggling with my body image at the moment, so I’m trying really hard not to worry about looking really fat in the images. I know how daft that might seem, but I can’t help it. It’s important that I get past it so that I am in pictures when the kids are grown up and want to look back at their childhood. 

This week, just as the heatwave kicked in, we headed to the Royal Welsh Show with my mum. Trevor is there all week working on a trade stand. He’ll be stood next to the head of a wind turbine that looks a bit like a space rocket, if anybody fancies saying hello! The temperature was a bit of a shock. The night before I considered packing waterproof coats and didn’t take the threat of hot weather particularly seriously. We do live in Wales after all! Instead I had to kit us all out in shorts. Well, the kids. I wore jeans which was a huge mistake. It was ridiculously hot, and it meant that we spent most of the day stopping in shady spots and eating ice cream. We missed at least 80% of the show. Such a shame after the early start and long drive up there, but Iris seemed to have a lot of fun hanging out with my mum and that’s what really counts. Astrid usually hates the heat, but wasn’t as cranky as I thought she might be. Thank goodness. Unfortunately Iris was quite violently sick on the way home, all over the inside of my mum’s car. We cleaned it up in a car park, but the smell and the heat were not a good combination for the rest of the journey home! 

We’ve been down to the local Meithrin and registered Iris to do two mornings per week from September. It was so odd to go into a childcare setting as a parent after so many years of working in them. Iris went into the play rooms while I filled out forms in the office, and she didn’t care one bit that I wasn’t there. Hopefully that’s a good sign for September! She’s very excited about starting because they have some fancy looking red bikes in the garden and she’s desperate to try them out! On the way home I asked her what she’d played with and she said “I found a rainbow and I licked it”. I have no idea what to think about that. I wish she’d just stop growing up. 


Because of the hot weather, we’ve just moped about the rest of this week. We’ve alternated between sitting on the sofa between two fans, and sitting in the paddling pool. We’ve barely been out. Public transport in hot weather is not fun. Plus we all seem to be lacking in energy. We have done some very messy painting, and I’ve been quite successful in not letting the disasterous mess that is our house get me down. 

I’ve got some stuff to write about coming up. A couple of product reviews, some tales to tell, and a few other bits. My drafts folder is full of half written stuff, so hopefully I’ll get on top of things and get some of it finished soon. In the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to take part in the world properly again. 

Six months of Astrid 

It’s difficult to believe that half a year has gone by. In 6 short months both of my children have grown and changed so much. In fact, they’ve both completely transformed. Astrid has gone from helpless newborn to a big chunky laughing baby, and Iris has transformed from wobbly baby-toddler to a full on person with full sentences and the ability to climb the biggest climbing frame and hold proper conversations.

Astrid has surprised me, time and again. Early on she was so laid back, so chilled out. She rarely cried, slept well, didn’t need very much from me. She slept in a basket while I played with Iris, and she went along with whatever we were doing with no fuss at all. And then things changed. She went through a developmental leap or something. I don’t know. But she started crying and she didn’t stop. She cried so much and so often, and nothing I did made her stop. I was so frustrated, and I missed her happy face. There have been days when I wondered how much more crying I could take. Thankfully, she seems to have calmed down a bit. She’s still unsettled and clingy, but her smile is back and she doesn’t scream constantly!
 One thing Astrid does do pretty well is sleep, which is a relief. It’s also pretty unexpected. Iris was (and still is!) a pretty dreadful sleeper and I thought Astrid would be much the same. She does wake up to feed a couple of times, but we share a bed and I feed her in my sleep. I don’t really remember it in the morning. Iris still wakes regularly, so I still feel quite sleep deprived!

We’ve begun baby led weaning. Astrid hasn’t been quite as eager as Iris was, but does like her food. She’s not sure about some textures and isn’t keen on holding anything slimy for very long. She is only managing a little bit here and there and quickly gets bored with being in the highchair.

Despite having our lovely colourful Cosatto tandem pushchair, Astrid isn’t a fan of being strapped in. We’ve gone back to full time babywearing, and I feel guilty for the money my mum spent on the pushchair. I can’t quite believe how fast time flies by. Six months has gone in the blink of an eye. The best thing has been watching the two develop a relationship. I so hope they’ll be best friends as well as sisters!

 

 

The siblings project (July) 

As usual I have no pictures taken especially for the blog. Actually, I’ve barely even thought about this blog for a while. My mind has been full, and the world has been a mess, and I’ve not really been coping very well. Parenting is about the only thing that seems to being going well at the moment, and even that has tested me quite a bit recently. Keeping my cool when I have a toddler having a tantrum at the same time as a baby screams isn’t easy, and there have been a few times when I’ve failed. And I’ve yelled. The one type of parent I really really did not want to be is a yeller. But you can’t be calm all of the time. It’s not possible. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with losing your patience every once in a while. I’m just a human. 

Thankfully Astrid’s phase of never ending screaming actually does seem to have ended. She’s still very clingy, and will not be held by other people. She will rarely be put down either, meaning everything is such a mess and I’m so disorganised. I remember this feeling of losing control of everything from when Iris was a baby. I expected it but still can’t accept it. Second time around it harder, as Iris deserves my attention too. Astrid has a habit of demanding my full attention just as Iris decides to do something dangerous. Like climb onto the back of the sofa and jump off. 

They’re quite a pair. Astrid scans her surroundings constantly looking for Iris, and Iris talks to Astrid in a little cutie voice the way grown ups talk to babies. Sometimes Iris will say things like “baby Astrid is so beautiful” or “I love her baby Astrid” and my heart swells so much I can barely contain it. I have cried. Several times. 

I love watching their relationship grow and develop, and I’m looking forward to the days they can play together and chat to each other. They won’t get long to be a twosome before Iris will be heading off to school, so I must remember to fill as many days with opportunities for having fun as I can. 

The Me and Mine Project