No more baby days 

I’m on the sofa this morning, after dropping my biggest girl at nursery. The smallest one is fast asleep on me after a rough night of wide awake snuggles and sore teeth. I’m suddenly overwhelmed by how big and clever and grown up the two of them are now. And it hurts. 
I don’t have a baby anymore. The days of having two under two are long behind me, and Iris is very nearly three. She starts nursery class at a school this September, with a tiny school uniform and everything. She’s excited. I’m excited too, because I know she’s going to have such a fabulous time, but I’m also sad and a tiny bit terrified. Astrid is 16 months old now, and like a tiny wrecking ball. She is sturdy and speedy, and charges through life at 100 miles per hour. She climbs and runs and has no fear of hurting herself. I can’t leave her alone in a room for even a minute. Not even if I can’t see a single hazard. She will find one. It’s not unusual to catch her dancing on tables or scaling window sills. 
They are not babies. 
The first year after Astrid was born I went to bed every single night feeling like I’d been hit by a bus. Seriously. While they pleasantly surprised me often and it wasn’t always as hard as I’d imagined, it was exhausting. Iris needed constant interactions at the time, too young yet to create games and play alone while I fed Astrid. Little one was a screamer, and a complete mystery to me a lot of the time. I didn’t instinctively know what she was crying for like I had with Iris. I had PND (I can see now in hindsight) and was having a huge identity crisis when I should have been focussing on my babies. 
I really feel like it’s over now. The hard bit. Obviously I know there are many many many hard bits to come. I’m not daft. But I can’t imagine it being that consistently hard again for such a long period of time. I can’t imagine slipping back into the black cloud I lived in for a long time either. I’ve been making sure I look after myself too, and I plan to keep it up. 
Besides some health issues (for another day) life is really very good at the moment, but I can’t help but feel some sadness at the baby days being behind us.


Astrid is One!

Astrid’s birthday was almost a month ago now. I’ve been writing this a little bit here and there for weeks! It’s so hard to find time to sit and write these days.  

It’s so weird that a whole year has gone by since my second beautiful little darling daughter arrived in the world. Last year was such a difficult year for me, and so I feel like I didn’t give her the first year of life that she deserves. I fully intend to make up for that this year. 

She’s a funny little creature. Mostly she’s an incredible bubbly little bundle of joy, with a big cheeky grin and an infectious laugh. She loves music, and sings in babble at the top of her lungs while swaying from side to side. When she hears music she dances, and even if there’s no music she usually starts dancing on demand. 

When she’s unhappy, she lets you know too. With an ear piercing scream followed by wailing that sometimes seems endless. She’s mostly been a bit of a mystery to me. With Iris I always seemed to just know why she was crying even if I couldn’t actually make her stop. Most of the time with Astrid I have no idea whatsoever. I don’t know if she’s a more complicated baby or if it’s because I’ve not been myself for most of her babyhood. When she was really tiny she often became completely inconsolable in public, and I couldn’t handle the judgemental stares of strangers or the stress of trying to get us all home with her shouting. It happens far less often now, but it still happens. 

Her first word was ‘cat’ and I wasn’t surprised. She loves the cats. Margot isn’t interested in human affection at all and avoids her, but Galahad loves a snuggle and she loves nothing more than stroking him and laughing at him (and tugging his fur a little bit). He seems to know how she feels about him and he likes to hang around her. She also says ‘hiya’ regularly and loudly. When she spots a big sister, or when people walk into a room. Lots of objects have become toy phones, which she holds around the back of her head (nowhere near her ear!) and shouts HIYA at. ‘Dada’ is said in context, mostly called out when he leaves the room and she’s not sure why or where he has gone. Most recently she’s started saying ‘yeah’ when you ask her a question. She seems to sense the tone of a question even if she has no idea what you asked. 

She’s crawling at high speed, and there’s no escaping her now! She follows me all around the downstairs and the days of being unable to go to the loo in peace are back. She also climbs, and it’s often really scary. I don’t want to be right behind her undermining her all the time, because climbing is clearly her thing and she’s good at it, but it terrifies me! I have to secretly cringe in fear from a bit further away. Rearranging furniture to stop her from climbing anywhere really dangerous takes up a lot of my day. I think walking is a little way off, which I’m a bit relieved about. She took her first steps on the afternoon of her birthday, and the odd step since, but doesn’t seem particularly bothered. She does let go and stand unaided for a long time quite often, and she whizzes around at high speed pushing a sit on ladybird that she can’t sit on because her feet don’t reach the floor. She’s my last baby, and I’m happy that she’s in no rush to stop being a baby! 

Her sleep is fantastic compare to Iris as a baby. Compared to Iris now actually! She mostly sleeps all through the night, unless she’s got a cough or something or she’s disturbed by Iris being noisy. To the parents out there with babies who never sleep, please don’t think I’m boasting. I’m not. I haven’t done any sleep training or tried to make her sleep through. It’s just who she is. I can’t say I’m not relieved, but I do know your pain at the lack of sleep. Iris never slept as a baby and is still rubbish at 2 and a half. Unfortunately Astrid is an early bird and I am not. When she pokes me awake at 5am I am not amused. 

Day time naps are down to two, usually around 10 and 2 but currently less predictable, which I think may mean they are about to change. If she’s up early (she usually is!) she’ll sleep at 9am and on a day when Iris goes to nursery in the morning there’s no noise to disturb her, meaning that sometimes she gives me a full two hours to get some housework done without her ‘help’. 

Astrid eats like she’s got a bottomless stomach. Iris was the same but I think Astrid’s appetite is even bigger. She will literally eat all day if there’s food available. I have to be careful that she doesn’t, because when she overeats she gets tummy ache and trapped wind which really upsets her. Thankfully she will eat all of the healthy stuff. Apart from bananas, which she won’t even consider eating, I’ve not found another thing she doesn’t like. Over Christmas she even enjoyed a pickled onion or three. 

Astrid loves being outdoors, especially now she can crawl. I’ve let her down a bit by not being outdoors enough lately, but I plan to rectify it. I’ve invested in waterproof trousers for her, and have no problem at all with her crawling around in the mud and wet grass. I was so looking forward to the crawling stage so she wouldn’t have to be restricted to the sling or pushchair while we were out, but I haven’t made the most of it at all. 

She has just two teeth, the bottom front ones. The same two Iris had when she turned one. It seems I make slow teethers. It doesn’t hold her back from eating crunchy foods, and they came through without too much of a struggle. I’m half expecting her to get a whole bunch more all at once now, like Iris did. Her hair is getting long now, and hangs in her eyes. I can’t decide if I should trim her fringe or keep trying to sweep it to one side until it tucks behind her ear. She will not tolerate a clip for more than a few minutes! I was expecting another bald baby like Iris, who has only really grown hair since turning two. I’m amazed at how blonde Astrid is too! 

She’s a much bigger baby, and is wearing clothes that Iris was wearing this time last year at 18 months. Unlike my long limbed Iris, she’s sturdy and more compact. She was weighed when she had her vaccinations recently, and weighs 20lb. That’s her first weigh in since she was tiny and probably her last for a long while. I’ve never really understood the point in constantly weighing babies unless you have concerns about them. She’s energetic and eating well and growing. 

I really hoped we’d still be breastfeeding, but yet again we didn’t make it to the first birthday. It went exactly the same way it did with Iris, only I couldn’t blame it on pregnancy this time. She just lost interest. She was down to one feed in the evening at around 10 months, and then gradually lost interest in that feed too. Her last feed was a few days before her birthday, and I had no idea it was going to be her last feed. I offered several more times but she just didn’t care. I’m gutted but also relieved. I have so many friends who would happily wean their older children off the breast but can’t without a battle and upsetting the child. At least I won’t have to go through that. I think feeding older children is amazing, but I’m not sure I could handle it. Once they start wriggling I start feeling uncomfortable. It feels like an invasion of my personal space when they start trying to put their big toe up your nose during a feed. Astrid also liked to attempt to pick a mole off my neck while feeding which was painful, and she’d get cross and cry if I tried to get her to stop. She scratched too, and hit me several times. Our no-boob cuddles are much nicer. She’s a very snugly girl and loves a cuddle! 

I hope that being in my dark cloud for the whole of her first year hasn’t affected our bond forever. She seems pretty attached to me, which is a good sign. I will forever feel awful that I’ve been here physically but not really in spirit for her months as a baby. 

She’s a joy. She really is. Her big round squishy face makes me so happy, especially when she gives me one of her big beaming smiles and shows me her dimples and her two teeth. She’s lots of fun and already has a great sense of humour. I can’t imagine life without her. I barely even remember what it was like to just have Iris. 

I’m determined that this next year will be a much much better one, and so far it’s going well. 

Happy first birthday Beanie. We love you.  

Fun with magic water beads 

Before Christmas I saw a Pinterest post about these magic water bead thingys and ordered a bag on eBay. They only cost a couple of quid, but took weeks to come. I had every intention of them being a stocking filler for Iris, but put them away and completely forgot about them. 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from them, and kind of thought they might be a bit rubbish. Especially as they cost next to nothing. 

I was wrong. I put them in a bowl of water, following the instructions, and was surprised to find a couple of hours later that they had increased from the size of pin heads to the size of marbles and they had absorbed all of the water. I topped it up, and by the next morning they were even bigger! With a crawling baby sister, Iris doesn’t get much chance to play with sensory stuff. Astrid just eats it. The only safe place for things like play dough is the kitchen table, and during the week that’s where Trevor often works. I planned to wait until Astrid napped, but Iris was impatient and so I put a towel down and popped her in the bath. Iris loves these kinds of sensory activities, but I have no imagination to think them up since having her and being sleep deprived for so long. The water beads kept her busy for ages, pouring them from one container to another, sorting them into colours, and trying to squish them hard enough to make them pop (not easy!). They’re really firm and rubbery. If you really squash them (or stand on them!) they do burst and have a kind of jelly consistency inside. I have absolutely no idea what they’re made of or how they work, but I love them! I am glad I put her in the bathtub though, as there was quite a lot of mess! I don’t know if they’ll be good for another play, as they seem to be getting softer and mushier, but I’ve put them in a big glass jug on my kitchen windowsill. Until Iris wants to play again, they’ll be turning the sunshine into rainbows in my kitchen. 

Staying in hospital with a toddler

photo-11-11-2016-11-09-22It was obvious when I picked Iris up from nursery on the Tuesday morning that she was ill. She came out after her 2 and a half hour session looking absolutely wrecked. I put it down to her getting up at 4:30 that morning and the beginnings of a cold. We hadn’t been out anywhere since the weekend and I was desperate to get out of the house and get some fresh air, but that didn’t seem fair on Iris so we stayed at home, and she slept. On Wednesday she seemed to have a full blown cold so we didn’t do very much. We watched movies under blankets and I got a bit of housework done. On Thursday she was worse again. My nap-avoiding toddler had a huge nap in the morning, and another one in the afternoon then asked to go to bed at 6:30. In between times she wanted to watch films, which was great but she was feeling very sensitive and kept getting very upset at the sad bits. I was even beginning to miss Peppa Pig, because nobody ever gets their heart frozen by their sister in Peppa Pig.

I took her up to bed. She was asleep quickly, but I noticed that she seemed to be struggling to breathe. She hadn’t eaten a thing or drank much all day, and she’d slept so much. I decided to try to wake her only to find that I couldn’t. She would briefly open her eyes and glance at me before closing them again. She was all limp. Her chest looked weird, like it was caving in every time she took a breath. I remembered her asking for the living room lights to be turned down earlier in the evening, and suddenly I panicked.

What if she has meningitis? A friend of Iris’s contracted meningitis at the beginning of this year. He was in hospital for about 4 months, most of which was spent clinging on to life and only just. He survived, but it was touch and go for a long time. Now he’s learning to walk again on a prosthetic leg. He’s not even 2. Him and Iris missed out on the new vaccine by just months, and I keep feeling guilty that we haven’t managed to find the money to have it done privately.

I text Trevor, who was downstairs with Astrid asleep on his lap, and he came up. We called the NHS advice number, but waiting for an answer I nearly gave in and got Trevor to just drive us to A&E. They answered, asked questions, and tried to get me to wake her while I was on the line. I couldn’t. So they sent an ambulance.

Iris loves ambulances. Fire engines and bin lorries and tractors too. Had she been awake she’d have loved the ambulance, but she missed the whole thing. She slept on my lap and we were strapped onto a bed. The blue lights were flashing. I was terrified, but couldn’t stop thinking about how strange it feels to be in a moving vehicle and not be able to see where you are going.

In A&E, Trevor and Astrid (who had stayed asleep, thankfully) found us. We waited on a chair in the corridor as there were no beds free. A doctor called us into a room and checked her over. They gave her more Calpol and she came around a little bit. The doctor suspected pneumonia, and sent us off to X-ray. Trevor took her in because Astrid woke and wanted to be fed, and he said she just cooperated. She’s not one for cooperating usually, so she was definitely not right! Thankfully the X-ray looked pretty clear and she definitely didn’t have pneumonia. What a relief! She still wasn’t really with it, and was red hot, so I was quite worried when the doctor said we could leave. A lovely nurse wasn’t happy with how she looked and did her obs one last time before we could leave, and thank goodness she did. 

She wasn’t happy, and requested a second opinion. I wish I’d caught her name because I’d love to thank her. I dread to think how much worse Iris could have got if we’d just gone home. 

On the children’s ward, Iris was immediately admitted. After examination she was given an inhaler and put on a course of nebulisers, one every 20 minutes. The first one was easy, because Iris was so drowsy. She fought the second one and cried quite a lot. She was clearly terrified. However, she perked up immediately afterwards and even said she was hungry. She wolfed down half a sandwich, more than she’s eaten in 2 days. The doctor said that she was barely aware of her surroundings previously because it was taking all of her effort to just breathe, and the nebulisers  and inhalers had opened her up and made it easier. They weren’t happy with her oxygen levels though, so she’d have to spend the night on oxygen. My poor little darling fought the tubes so hard. The nurse took a long time to get the tubes taped to her little cheeks and it broke my heart to see her so scared. 

She fell asleep not long after, but wasn’t allowed to just sleep. She had nebulisers hourly through the night, and for every one I had to hold her still with all my strength while gently trying to convince her that she was safe and the mask was making her better. I’m not sure she believed me! In between nebulisers she kept waking up and crying, while trying to pull the tubes from her nose. She gave herself a nosebleed in the process. 

It all worked though. Although she was shattered the next morning, she had improved loads. So much so that they decided to stop the nebulisers all together and see how she got on without. They decided it was probably a severe chest infection and gave her antibiotics. One dose a day for three days. It was a huge relief to here chest infection instead of pneumonia or meningitis or any of the other really scary things. Not that chest infections aren’t scary. I was certainly scared, and so was Iris. 

She still wouldn’t eat, and wouldn’t drink without lots of persuasion. She hadn’t done a wee all night so dehydration was a worry. Because she was wired up to oxygen and a monitor she couldn’t use the loo, so I’d put her in a nappy. I think that was the problem, because at 1pm when they decided to try her without oxygen for a bit and I could take her to the loo, she did the biggest wee ever. I was as relieved as she was. 

A nurse told us that if she could keep the oxygen number on the screen above 92 for 24 hours she could probably go home. It was only at that point that I realised we were definitely in for another night. The monitor was attached to Iris’s toe (that she later started referring to as her ‘magic toe’) but as the day went on they let her take it off in between having her obs done. She could go and play! 

Parents of patients don’t get fed, and no hot drinks are allowed on the ward. I was so tired, and had a pretty bad caffeine withdrawal headache. Trevor and Astrid needed lunch so fetched me some of those cold coffees in cans. They saved the day for me, and kept me going. Well, combined with lots of biscuits they did anyway. 

I was feeling incredibly guilty (I still am actually) for being away from 10 month old Astrid for two whole nights. I knew she was fine with Trevor, and thankfully we had enough expressed milk in the freezer. She breastfeeds all through the night usually, so I knew she’d find it hard. After not leaving the hospital with Trevor until around midnight she had slept pretty well and taken some milk from a cup. Little monster still won’t take a bottle. I’ve only ever left Iris for one night (when I was in labour!) so knowing I’d be leaving Astrid for a second night was getting to me. 

Iris slept a lot through the day on the Friday, but her stats stayed up and she continued to improve. I watched the monitor really closely, and although her heart rate was still quite high she maintained a great oxygen level without the tubes. By the evening she was running around and playing with the other children. Trevor and Astrid left as Iris’s dinner arrived (that she didn’t eat) and I attempted to get a shattered Iris to sleep. 

I failed. She kept getting into bed, demanding the curtains be closed, and closing her eyes. A few minutes later she’d leap up and ask to go and play. She was tired. So tired. But wanted to make up for days of not being able to play, and I could understand that! I was fed up with being stuck indoors doing nothing too. She eventually nodded off 20 minutes before the nurse had said she’d be round to check her stats, which obviously meant they’d wake her again! 

The ward was really noisy until after 11, but when it went quiet it was a quieter night. The snoring parent that had annoyed me so much the first night wasn’t there, and there were only toddlers. No babies. Apart from being woken often when they took Iris’s stats, we slept. Squeezing into a tiny single hospital bed with Iris, who sleeps in starfish position, wasn’t great. She wouldn’t let me sleep on the parent chair bed thingy, and I really wanted to hold her anyway. 

You can imagine how annoyed I was when at 8:30 the next morning, they turned the big lights on and opened our curtain all the way around. It wasn’t the nicest wake up and Iris was quite upset! 

She didn’t touch breakfast again, but nibbled on a couple of cookies and had started to drink a bit more. She was still coughing and breathing heavily, but was clearly itching to get home. Thankfully the doctor immediately discharged her. A dad of a little boy on the ward started up a game of ‘where is Postman Pat?’ and all four children on the ward got involved while we waited for Iris prescription to arrive so that we could go home.  

By lunchtime, we were in the van on our way home. 

The whole experience left Iris tired and tearful for days afterwards. She’s only just getting her appetite and her energy back now, two weeks later. 

Potty learning – why I’m following her lead 

“You need to start potty training her soon” is a phrase I’ve heard way too much in the last few months. While I was a little worried that kids start school at 3 here and need to be reliably using the loo by then, I was in no rush to get Iris out of her nappies. I think part of the reason people have been encouraging me to potty train is because they assume having two in nappies is really hard work, when in fact it really isn’t. I haven’t found it to be anyway. 

My niece was out of nappies pretty early, because she took my sister by surprise and announced that she’d be wearing pants, and not nappies, one day out of the blue. Her accidents were minimal and she was dry and using the loo every time within a few days. Following her lead had worked. It reinforced my belief that there’s not a lot of point in trying to force children to do things they aren’t ready for. 

I’ve worked in nurseries most of my adult life so I have contributed to the potty training of probably hundreds of children. I’ve met loads who have been put in pants too early. They have loads of accidents and it knocks their confidence. This has the complete opposite result to what the parents hoped for. 

Honestly, I see nothing wrong with children wearing nappies until they’re three or four or whatever. Had Iris wanted to stay in nappies a lot longer I’d have rolled with it. Actually, I wasn’t ready for this. As usual, she’s way ahead of me. 

The week before we went away camping Iris just started using her potty. Just like that. It’s been kicking around the house for a while, so it’s become familiar and she’s used it on a few occasions here and there when she’s felt like it. This time was different because she didn’t want to put her nappy back on, preferring to stay naked from the waist down. We stayed at home and she used the potty all afternoon. We even took the potty out with us to walk the dog, and Iris wore a dress and a bare bum underneath. Luckily the weather was warm! 

Her timing was dreadful. With a camping holiday starting a few days later, and then her first sessions at nursery the following week. I’d obviously rather waited until we were back from our holiday and she had settled in at nursery. 

I needn’t have worried. Her wet accidents were few and far between, and camping turned out to be a good time for it. Most of her few accidents happened in the great outdoors! She still isn’t quite there with her poo, and although she’s making it to the potty for most of them now, she isn’t reliable yet. I don’t see it as any more of a chore than changing a dirty nappy so it’s not worrying me. When she does manage it on the potty or the loo she’s so chuffed with herself! I’m so confident in her ability to ask when she needs a wee that I’ve stopped putting puppy pads in her car seat and pushchair, and I’ve even taken her on a train journey to Bristol in pants. She’s pretty much cracked it. 

These are my tips for potty ‘learning’. I’m no expert, but these things have worked so well for Iris that I thought I’d share. 

  • Just wait. Leave a potty lying around by all means, and definitely use the loo in front of them as much as possible. But don’t put any pressure on. Just wait for them to show interest. 
  • Get the Pirate Pete potty book out from the library. Iris really liked the parts where he picked out his potty and his pants. One day she just asked if we could go to the shops and choose pants for her, and we did. Even though she didn’t actually want to wear them yet. 
  • Let them choose the pants. Iris has a mixture of Peppa Pig, monsters, and vehicles. All her choices, and most of them from the boys section. I wasn’t going to tell her that she couldn’t have the pants with diggers on just because some idiot somewhere has decided that only boys can like diggers. 
  • Leave the pants around. Iris has a basket of pants in the living room. They get put on dolls and played with a lot. They’re very familiar to her now. 
  • Invest in a travel potty. We have the ‘carry potty’. It is sealed when you shut the lid and apparently doesn’t leak if you have to carry a wee around with you. I’ve never actually had to test this out though! Every time we go out I remind Iris every so often that the potty is right there in the bottom of the pushchair if she needs it. 
  • Keep a potty near the toys and another one in the bathroom. When they first start learning they can’t hold the wee long! A potty where they play helps with this. 
  • Buy a wet bag or two for storing soiled clothes when you’re out. They’re very cheap, and will save a lot of plastic nappy sacks. You can turn them inside out and chuck them in the washing machine with the pants. 
  • Ditch all in one pyjamas and dungarees. Choose leggings and jogging bottoms, or dresses. They need to be able to get them out of the way quickly and by themselves. 
  • Iris wouldn’t use the loo at nursery to start with so she took her own potty in so that she’d have somewhere familiar to go. She didn’t use it and started using their loo pretty quickly, but it might be helpful for other little ones. 
  • Cheer and congratulate when they do it, but clean it away quickly and without making a big deal when they don’t. It really doesn’t matter. 
  • Think carefully about using sticker charts or other rewards. I’ve used them lots of times with lots of children over the years, but I’ve found they’re not usually helpful. Some kids really respond to them, but just remember that at some point you have to take it away. 

Despite being incredibly proud of Iris for tackling this at such a young age, I’m a little bit emotional too. No nappies definitely means she’s not a baby anymore! 

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.

Our Insect Lore butterflies


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!*