A tale of two trips

I think it’s unlikely that anybody will ever accuse me of putting forward a Pinterest-perfect life. I don’t even use a camera and I have no idea what a flat lay is. Besides, most of what I write is about how badly I cope with life in general, and parenting too. This is another of those. Sort of.

On the advice of Cardiff Mummy Says (check out the stuff to do in the summer holidays posts! So useful!) I took Iris and Astrid to National Museum Cardiff yesterday. And again today actually. But not because we had too much fun yesterday and couldn’t wait to go back. Nope. Yesterday, in typical Mouse family style, was a complete disaster.


I’m not even going to go there really. I don’t want to revisit it. Let’s just say Astrid screamed. A lot. All day long actually. On the train, in the pushchair, in the sling, during lunch. All day. We went to the museum but we only really saw the foyer. Oh, and we bumped into a friend of mine and I couldn’t even talk to her because I was a flustered mess and on the brink of tears. So that was nice. The only positive of the day was when the kids finally fell asleep and I caught a Pikachu. Yep. I’m addicted to Pokemon Go. That was on the way home.


So why would I put myself through it all again?

I don’t know. Because I’m not particularly sensible? I’m a sucker for punishment?

Well Iris was a bit gutted she didn’t get to see ‘Superworm’ and Trevor convinced me I was brave enough. I wasn’t.

I mentioned the whole thing to friends at toddler group this morning, and before I knew it we were all on a train. Four mums and five kids. I had backup. I had a TEAM now. I was brave enough after all.

Astrid was happier today. She napped early and Iris napped too. I arrived with well rested babies, and that makes the world of difference.

We had the best time. Especially Iris. Her favourite part was the worm exhibition, in particular the little house that feels like being a worm underground. There were windows containing other underground creatures, and predators peering down from holes above your head. The fox was quite sinister looking. I don’t fancy being a worm.

Iris, in her usual style, embraced the whole experience and even got into the worm and caterpillar costumes to wriggle about for a bit. She was squealing with excitement at the animals all around, and was extra excited by any animal that features in The Gruffalo’s Child. A tiny stuffed mouse was THE BIG BAD MOUSE, and the fox prompted her to recite a big chunk of her favourite book. Another of her favourite books, Superworm, was available to read in a little book corner with a shelf full of stories about worms and other wriggly creatures. We spent a while in there on the cushions. A relief for me, because I’m constantly exhausted.

 

The exhibition is really great! I hope we can get back and see it again soon. I actually learnt quite a bit too. I had no idea there was a worm called the Bone Eating Snot Flower, for example. But I’m glad to know now. Our friends dashed off, but with nowhere to go I followed Iris as she wandered around some of the other exhibits. I’m sure we only saw a small chunk of the museum as we walk slowly and linger for ages at the interesting stuff. A tree with a stuffed owl inside, whale bones, sparkly rocks, hairy dinosaurs, a huge screen showing volcanoes erupting. So much to see.

 
Plus the cafe is quite nice.

We’ll be back, for sure. And not just because Bute Park is full of Pikachus. On the way back to the train station I decided to treat myself and Iris to an ice cream. Astrid stole mine. As usual.

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A little trip to Cardiff Bay

There’s not much that Iris likes more than all the different forms of transport at the moment. Wherever we go she’s squealing “look mummy, a plane/van/lorry/some other vehicle”. Luckily the narrow street we live on is not only a bus route, but also leads to lots of farms so we get a lot of passing tractors! When my mum suggested we get the train to Barry with my very pregnant sister and my little niece and nephew, Iris was excited. As we waited for them at Treforest station yesterday morning the sky was grey and it kept drizzling, so we decided to head somewhere other than the beach. Cardiff Bay is the obvious choice. Easily accessible by train, tons to do, and Techniquest to play in if the weather gets really bad. By the time we’d got off the train at the bay though, it was perfect beach weather. Oh well. For Iris, the train journey is the best bit of the day anyway so weather is unimportant! 


There’s a ‘beach’ set up in the bay at the moment, with a splash pool, huge sandpit and loads of fairground rides. The kids are all a bit little for most rides, but my mum took them on a couple. I was surprised Iris liked them. She quite often asks to go on those little rides outside supermarkets, but then starts crying when they start moving. Maybe seeing her cousins enjoy it gave her confidence? I hope so! I love seeing the three of them interact and play together. Soon Astrid will be old enough to play too, and then my sister’s new baby will join in. It is difficult to imagine day trips like this with five of them running around! Just these three were exhausting. Why do they always want to run in different directions? The only time they stayed still was during lunch, and they spent most of that hiding from each other in a storage cupboard belonging to the hot dog bar! 

Being 37 weeks pregnant, my sister needed frequent loo stops. Starbucks was an obvious choice, and the kids all enjoyed a babyccino. My nephew did enjoy it and was first to finish, despite what the look on his face says! 

When we visited Cardiff Bay on Iris’s birthday we took a boat trip round to Bute Park, so we decided to do that again. That boat wasn’t leaving for half an hour though, so we jumped on a different one. It took a 45 minute guided tour of the whole bay, and the views were lovely. The kids did a bit of boat and duck spotting. Me and my sister tried to resume our games of Pokemon Go (Cardiff is so much better than Pontypridd for Pokemon!) but it didn’t really work on the water. It just looked a bit weird! 

The boat took us back to the exact spot it left from and we went for another wander. Carrying some weird blue dolls they won on Hook a Duck, Iris and my niece spotted not an ice cream van but an ice cream bus! We’ve chased the ice cream van down our street enough times for it to be familiar to Iris, and she was very excited. Her chocolate cone was gone before the rest of us had barely started, and she finished off my nephew’s blue bubblegum one too. Greedy little thing! Astrid ate most of mine. You have to share everything when you’ve got kids! Not fair! 


Then the day was done. We squeezed in to a really overcrowded train back to Cardiff, then another one back to Treforest. My family all headed off home to Bristol while Trevor picked us up. It wasn’t much, but it was a great day for us. We don’t see my family even close to often enough, and I miss them so much. Seeing the little cousins play together is my favourite thing. I can’t wait for there to be five! 

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.*

Life lately (again) 

I’ve done this before, returned to blogging after a break only to find it hard to write. There’s been such a big gap, and I know of only one way to record what happened in that time. A list! 

We tried to rekindle our love for geocaching, but it was freezing cold, the geocaching app wasn’t working, Iris fell over, and none of us had any fun. 

 

Trevor finally finished wallpapering the living room wall. (It only took him a year.) 

Sub Zero ice cream parlour opened and we visited several times. 

Spring finally arrived! 

My migraines returned. I went back on amitriptyline to prevent them. 

We visited the steam railway at Blaenavon. The Easter bunny was on the train and Iris was terrified. 

We went back to Warren Mill Farm Park. Trevor tried to pick up a prairie dog and it bit him. 

We ventured to Barry Island on the train on a really cold day. Just me and the little ones. It was scary but I was brave. 

Iris did quite a bit of cycling. 

Iris started learning Welsh at a Welsh mum and toddler group, but it only lasted 4 weeks before they decided it wasn’t successful. We were gutted. 

We went to stay with my mum over the bridge, and hung out with my niece and nephew at soft play on a rainy day. 

We got the train to Cardiff a couple of times. We visited Parc play centre. Iris liked the sandpit and huge wooden boat. 

We bought a spiralizer and ate a lot of ‘green spaghetti’. 

Iris became obsessed with a book called ‘Cat’s Colours’ that she borrowed from the library. She learnt to recognise red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple and black because of it. She also started trying count, a skill she uses mostly to count horse poops when we go out to walk the dog. 

Summer arrived. The paddling pool came out, and the sandpit was filled. Iris started painting all of the stones in the garden. 

We went to Barry again, in better weather. 

Life rumbled along nicely in much the same way it always does, and we all got used to Astrid while she got used to us. 

I ate way too much chocolate. 

A quick peek at Cefn Mably Farm Park 

This afternoon we found ourselves at the birthday party of one of Iris’s little buddies. I still can’t believe that so many of her friends are turning two, and that her turn is not very far away. We planned to go into the farm early, before the party, to have a bit of a wander around. It didn’t work out like that. We spent the morning at the outdoors playgroup Iris goes to once a month, then followed that with lunch in the supermarket. By the time we got to Cefn Mably and waited for Iris to wake from her van nap, the party was about to start. 

The big two spent some time exploring the big indoor soft play area while Iris partied with friends, but I didn’t even take a look. The kids seemed to enjoy it though. When the party finished we only had an hour before the whole park closed. We crammed quite a bit in! 


There are a lot of different animals to see! Iris is a real animal lover, and loves to chat away to them. She’s completely unaware that they don’t understand her. “Oh hello little horsey, you’re a nice horsey, your feet go nick nock nick nock”. They’re all really used to people and pretty much every species were at the fences, trying to get our attention. So late in the day, we had it almost to ourselves. I like it like that. 


There were pony rides too, but they’d finished for the day. Plus loads of play equipment. Even old farm equipment and tractors for kids to explore. The kids had a lot of fun swinging and sliding, but we just didn’t have enough time for them to do it all. 

Astrid was upset about the heat (it was scorching here today!) so I spent much of the time sitting in the shade trying to calm her down. Actually, I rather like being able to sit back and know that Iris can run and climb and she’s safe with her dad and sisters. That’s the best thing about the weekend! 


We’ll be back, with more time and better planning, and I’ll write a proper review of the place. So far, we love it! 

Cinderella pantomime review @RCTCouncil

We really really got lucky when Rhondda Cynon Taf Council invited us along to see this year’s pantomime, Cinderella, at The Coliseum Theatre in Aberdare. I’ll be honest, the main reason I was excited was because The Fairy Godmother is played by Claire Hingott who plays Nurse Cheryl in Stella, one of our favourite TV shows! In fact she mentioned her Sidekick in Stella, Mrs Wong, several times during the panto which really had us laughing!

I know panto isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but I’ve always rather enjoyed it for what it is – a lot of fun! The best part of this particular one for me was how local the whole thing is. It’s like Cinderella set in the Valleys, with loads of mentions for local places. I’m still pretty new here,  but that didn’t matter and I got all of the local jokes.

I’m so glad we managed to go on a weekend when the big stepkids were with us, as they probably got the most out of it. Biggest kid is ten, and calls herself ‘the TENager’ so I wasn’t sure she’d admit to enjoying it but she lapped it up. Both big kids were quite taken with Buttons (played by Kit Orton who is soon to play Tom in the Tom Jones Musical!), and so was I. He was lively and hilarious, and had us all roaring over and over. He also had the best songs, according to the kids. The whole panto included lots of their favourite tunes actually, and I caught them dancing and singing along several times! Iris spent much of the first half dancing some questionable moves as well as stroking the poor man sat in front of her. She somehow slept through most of the second half, but as she’s rather poorly I’ll let her off.

The costumes were really something. I particularly liked Prince Charming’s tights and wondered if I could squeeze Trevor into a pair. The Fairy Godmother and Cinderella had wonderful sparkly gowns, but of course the best costumes went to the ugly sisters (played by Frank Vickery and Richard Tunley).  Biggest kid was gobsmacked by some of the things they wore, and said ‘Where do you even buy stuff like that???’ in disbelief! My favourite costume though, was one of Cinderella’s, that changed from rags to ball gown in one strange turning-inside-out sort of movement in the middle of a song and in the middle of the stage!

From start to finish, we danced and laughed and sang along. That is exactly what you want from a pantomime. Cinderella hits the nail on the head. The jokes were cheesy but funny, the dancing was perfect, and the songs were just right.

I’m finally starting to feel the Christmas joy now, thanks to this magical afternoon of fun and laughing. It’s a great big merry Christmas show, and it’s not to be missed!

There are only a couple more shows at The Coliseum in Aberdare before it moves over to The Park and Dare where lots of the performances are already sold out. A family ticket costs £48 and tickets can be purchased from the RCT Council website.

*Rhondda Cynon Taf Council gifted us some free press tickets for the purposes of this review, but all words and opinions belong to me and my family.*