2016

I actually wrote this post a few weeks ago, with the intention to finish it over the Christmas holidays, but when I came back to it tonight I found that it just didn’t say what I wanted it to say. It didn’t sum up the year at all. 

I thought for a while that no year would be bigger (I said bigger, not better) than 2014. That was the year I became a mother. In some respects, that’s still true. I can’t become a mother again. Becoming a mother is the single most exciting thing I’ve ever done and I can’t imagine ever topping that. I became a mum of two this year though, and a mum of two under two. I assumed wrongly that the blissful bubble I lived in after Iris’s birth would be replicated after Astrid arrived. It couldn’t have been more different. I’ve felt slightly traumatised by the birth of Iris. The doctors, the procedures, the room full of people staring at my private parts, the epidural, the forceps, the hospital stay for an infection. It’s all stayed with me. The birth of Astrid was completely different. I refused point blank to go back to the same hospital, and chose to give birth on a midwife led unit somewhere else. A midwife asked me if I had a back up plan in case the unit was full, and I told her that if she wanted me to go back to the hospital she’d have to drag me kicking and screaming. Thankfully it all worked out. Astrid arrived after a day and a night of labour, half of which was at home and half was in a pool in a private room with a midwife poking her head around the door every so often. Just me and Trevor, singing songs by The Smiths and holding each other. She was born in the morning and we went home the same day. I felt healed by the experience and hopeful for a few weeks of newborn bliss. This is my favourite picture ever. Just after arriving home with brand new Astrid, the first time these sisters ever met. The look of wonder on Iris’s face. How gently she’s touching her. Watching the bond between them grow and develop has been the highlight of a very tough year. They belong together. I’m dreading the days when they have real fights and stop talking to each other. I just want them to always love each other the way they do now. The bliss never came and life after her birth was really hard. It wasn’t them. Of course there were moments when I had both of them upset and couldn’t split myself, and it was hard. But mostly I was surprised by having two under two. It wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t as hard as I’d anticipated. Despite that, I was seriously down. I can look back now and see that it probably wasn’t just a normal bit of baby blues. The black dog had come along and clouded everything. My migraines returned, and I went back on medication for both. A combination of Sertraline and Amitryptaline helped me so much, but I couldn’t take good care of myself. I was too anxious and stressed out. I ate my feelings, which didn’t make me feel better. I turned 31 in February, and I reflected on how I spent my birthday (doing housework and feeling like crap) and was scared it summed up who I had become, so I vowed to take better care of myself, to look after myself better. I didn’t though. I just couldn’t find the energy or the motivation. I didn’t like myself. I didn’t feel like I was worth the effort. Instead I just carried on in a fog and gained a ridiculous amount of weight. I kept trying to convince myself that writing stuff down and blogging was making me feel better, that it gave me a release and helped me to deal with things. While that was sometimes true, it wasn’t most of the time. The New Years resolutions I’d had for making my blog more of a thing just put more pressure on my already tired brain. Most of my blog posts contained the words ‘sorry for the silence, please stick with me while I attempt to get better at this’. I gave up on my photo round up posts that were like a diary of my life. I just couldn’t keep up. I tried again to fix my bad eating habits. I’m vegetarian, dairy makes me feel crappy, and the thought of eating eggs repulses me. I tried hard to fix my diet and only eat things that make me feel good. I even mastered vegan pancakes! It didn’t last. I turned to chocolate to make me feel better at the end of the day. It didn’t work but I couldn’t give it up. Breastfeeding was a big part of the year, as well as severe sleep deprivation. I was proud of my ability to walk around and be alive on so little sleep for so many months on end. It was so daft, because my skin was grey, my bones ached, my hair was falling out and I felt so so awful. Breastfeeding was easier second time around though, and we’re still going now. We spent more time with my family this year, and that made such a difference to me. I love seeing Iris run around with my sister’s kids. They’re so close now, and are always hugging and kissing each other. They’ve come over the bridge for sleepovers here a few times and they’ve been wonderful. I’m hoping for lots more of that in 2017! The hardest part of being in Wales is being away from people that I love, both friends and family. I’ve been here for over 2 and a half years. It’s still a constant battle. There’s nowhere to run. I have great friends here now, but it’s not the same as running off to your mum’s when life gets a bit overwhelming. Spring bought us a bit of a heatwave and being outside more was soothing. I had already gained so much weight since new year that I had no clothes that fit me. I bought some from charity shops but quickly outgrew those too. It got me down so much, but being outside on our new decking with my little ones brought me joy and that helped. The warm weather wasn’t consistent, but we kept up with the outdoors fun anyway. I didn’t write a single word on my blog in April, and I can’t even remember why. I probably just couldn’t. I couldn’t face it. I hate to write negative posts but I’ve struggled to find positives for much of this year. This leads to me feeling guilty because the news is full of hate and pain and suffering, and I had nothing solid to blame my depression on. Life was good. I have it good. It doesn’t work that way though. If only it did. Trevor decided to try to cuddle a prairie dog and it bit him. I’m including it because it was one of the funniest things that happened all year. Plus it serves him right. Who tries to cuddle a prairie dog?? If I was going to master getting my life back on track, I had to get the hang of getting around with two very small children. As you can see, I’d already mastered the art of the selfie that hides the weight gain and exhaustion. I did briefly get better at travelling around with them, and we did a few days out on public transport and visits to people we miss. Sometimes it was a huge success, and other times it was so stressful it put me off and I hid us all away for a while again. We went to Barry Island on an average spring day only to find that it was still winter at the seafront. It was so freezing, and I was glad of my tendency to overpack the changing bag for once. We made sand castles and played hook a duck while trying to shelter from the blistering wind. Iris’s unexplainable obsession with chickens and ducks kept growing, and I still have no real idea where it started or what she sees in them. A neighbour keeps them, and we visit them often. Iris even sings to them sometimes. It’s not escaped me that there’s barely a mention of Astrid in this post so far. The truth is that I don’t remember quite a bit of her first few months. I was a mess, and she was one of those babies that screams and screams for a reason it’s impossible to work out. I couldn’t console her no matter what I did, and in trying to I often had to ignore Iris. It was so hard. The lowest moment of the year was the day some police community support officers helped me home on the bus because they found me crying and Astrid screaming while Iris slept in the pushchair. I couldn’t juggle it all. I just couldn’t get us out of the public eye and back home by myself. I felt so judged and so ridiculous, but I can see now that people were kind to me. We did run away to my mum’s occasionally despite the distance, and those times were so good. Sometimes I just need to get away from Wales and away from our life. I feel so bad because as much as I insist it’s not about Trevor and our life here (and it really isn’t) it must be so hard for him to live with somebody like me and then to worry about us when I take us all off for a break. I know if the tables were turned I’d feel abandoned and like I’d done something wrong, so I do appreciate that it’s got to be hard for him. In another attempt to fix my terrible eating habits I bought a spiraliser, and for a while we ate a lot of vegetables. Green spaghetti was Iris’s favourite. It didn’t last that long though. Like every other thing I tried to do for my own health this year, it failed at the first hurdle. There was a lot of rain. Thankfully Iris quite likes it and I’m a fan of it too if we’re dressed appropriately! We jumped in a lot of puddles and didn’t let it keep us indoors. A friend of ours set up an exercise class where you could take your little ones along. Iris enjoyed it, but Astrid kept crying and wouldn’t settle so I found I was barely joining in. When I could take part, I had a great time and remembered how good exercise felt. I even lost a bit of weight. The class didn’t carry on because the instructor was expecting another baby, and I didn’t find another form of exercise to replace it. I tried (and still do!) to keep active by walking the dog. Actually we barely walk at all, because Iris goes so slowly and stops to admire every stick. Astrid often starts to cry and Iris asks to be carried, and I give up. It’s just too exhausting and I’m all out of motivation and energy. We got some tiny baby caterpillars and looked after them until they made the transformation into beautiful butterflies, and then we let them go in local woodland. It was magical, and made me feel incredibly emotional! They were landing on us and hanging around, and when they did fly away Iris was calling out goodbye to them. It’s definitely an experience I want to repeat every year! We hung out at the local lido as often as we could, because we’re very lucky to have such a wonderful facility on our doorstep. Iris discovered that she can swim by herself if she wears armbands and I’ve never seen her prouder. I’ve never felt prouder either. She turned TWO! My tiny little baby was a two year old. We celebrated with a picnic in the park on a quite chilly day, followed by fun in the (very cold) splash park and then a day trip to Cardiff Bay with my mum. I couldn’t believe how much she’d changed from 18 months to two, in the six months since Astrid had arrived. She was such a little person already, with her own ways and preferences.I went blonde in an attempt to like what I see in the mirror. It actually worked! I really liked it. The upkeep was two much in my busy life though, so the roots kept growing too long and I just couldn’t keep up. But for a while, I really enjoyed having super frosty blonde hair. We had a lovely family photo shoot in a strawberry field with local photographer Donna of Sweet Whimsy Photography. I love the results and they are pictures I will truly treasure forever. I had to really battle with myself to share the ones of me though, and could hardly bear to look at them myself. I don’t recognise this person I see in pictures and in the mirror. It isn’t the me I know, and I can’t find a better way to explain it than that. I guess it’s an identity crisis of sorts, and I’m very much still having it now. We did a fair bit of camping this year, which suits me just fine. I love it. It’s so freeing and soothing. Even when it pours with rain there’s just something about that sound on the tent. Even if it does keep us all awake. Our first trip was with all of Iris’s friends from breastfeeding support group and their parents who have become our friends. It made me realise that the support network I have here in Wales now is just incredible. I miss my Bristol friends and I always will, but this bunch are wonderful and have kept me going through so much. We managed to pitch our tents in a big circle around the children’s play area, and we just chilled and watched the kids play for a couple of days. Astrid started eating solid food, and we went down the baby led route again. It’s worked so well for us both times, and I’m so glad I’ve never had to mash food or make up puréed veg. It also means I could sit and eat my own dinner with two hands. I didn’t realise it was possible, but Astrid actually eats even better than Iris did. Iris is beginning to get a little fussy now, but as a baby she ate everything and anything in huge quantities. Astrid is exactly the same. I hoped thinking about meals for a small baby would help me sort out my own eating habits but that didn’t happen. The last few weeks of summer were pretty great. We managed another camping trip, this time with Trevor’s brother and his family who we don’t get to see often, as well as a few lovely day trips. The weather was fantastic, and I briefly felt like my old self for a while. I felt like I might have got a grip of things and it felt good. The sunshine was working for me. In August we went to a wedding reception in Bristol, which we decided not to take Iris to. It was kind of a big deal for her, her first sleepover at Nanny’s without me there to put her to bed. She’d stayed overnight with my mum at our house once before (while I was giving birth to Astrid) but I’d never left her at my mum’s. She wasn’t bothered and had a great time. Astrid came along and mostly ate food and slept in the sling. In mid August Iris declared “no more nappies!” and decided she needed big girl pants. We rolled with it despite the awful timing  (the week before our holiday!) and I’m glad I trusted her and followed her lead. She’s had her fair share of accidents but hasn’t looked back. She’s so proud of using the toilet by herself and quickly moved on from the potty. The summer ended, as it has for three years now, with our long camping trip to Beddgelert in North Wales. Having a potty training toddler along for the ride was interesting but it all worked out and we had another fantastic break away. It’s one of the highlights of my year every year now and I look forward to it all year long. This year my sister gave birth to my new baby niece Effie while we were away and I found it quite upsetting to not be nearby for her. The mobile phone signal is so bad in Snowdonia that we could barely keep in touch, and I couldn’t wait to meet her. The week after our holiday, Iris started at nursery. It was a big decision for me, and I wasn’t sure it was right for a while. I don’t have a job, or any real need of childcare, but Iris is a really sociable girl who doesn’t cope with whole days at home or without the company of other children. The pressure of making sure her days were full was something I could do with easing up slightly. She loved it from the very beginning, and on her first morning when we told her we’d leave and come back in a little while she barely looked up from the sandpit and just said ‘bye then’. She had a lot of accidents there to start with as she was nervous about asking to go the loo, but she got the hang of it in the end. She’s been coming home singing in Welsh (it’s a bilingual nursery) and talking about her new friends and her teachers. Astrid quite often naps while she’s there and it’s given me two mornings a week to do housework or just sit still if that’s what I need to do. One of our guinea pigs, Captain Fuzzywuzzy, had died suddenly before our holiday but although we knew Batpig was lonely we put off getting him a new friend so that we could be around to supervise the introductions. It went really well and baby Robin has settled in nicely. He’s more nervous and jumpy than Batpig so we’re working on getting him used to us. The arrival of autumn was welcomed by me. It had been very hot for a while and I was struggling with it. Iris discovered conkers and our days were filled with finding the best trees to collect them from. It was a great game to combine with Pokemon Go, and we spent a lot of time outdoors. Astrid learnt to crawl, and it made our outdoor adventures more fun. She was less frustrated. She could join in! We had a day out with my sister and her family in Bristol, which was wonderful. However, I realised that I didn’t want to be there. I’m not the Bristol version of me anymore. I was scared of bumping into people because I don’t want them to see me like this. I don’t t even want to see myself like this. I’m so tired and worn down. Even my old river city couldn’t pick me up. Astrid wore a lion costume for an animal themed workshop on the park, and I’m basically just including this picture because it makes me happy. I sold our gorgeous Cosatto tandem pushchair because Astrid hated being in the back, and bought a second hand double off-road three wheeler. It’s great for in the woods and the park, and Astrid is so much happier in it. Scenes like this one make it my best purchase of the year. For the third time this year we combined a train trip to Techniquest in Cardiff Bay with a boat ride to Bute Park, but this time we took Trevor and the big girls. We’ve become so attached to Techniquest that we’re getting annual passes next year! Hooray for science! It rained a lot, so we bought some waterproof trousers and rolled around in muddy puddles. Well, the kids did. I just watched and enjoyed seeing their joy. In October we carved pumpkins and Iris had a wonderful Halloween evening answering the door and handing out sweets. Her nursery had a Halloween disco, and although she refused to wear the witch costume I had bought for her, Iris had a wonderful evening. Astrid loved it too. We went to the big firework display in our local park for bonfire night. Astrid stared at them and we couldn’t make out how she felt about the experience. Iris kept trying to climb a nearby tree and I was too scared of losing her in the dark to enjoy the display. Our good friends Jen and Martin at Barefoot Images did a Christmas photo shoot for us. After not even being able to look at the pictures of myself from our last photo shoot, I decided this would be just the four kids. This is an outtake but is actually my favourite shot. It sums up their relationship so well. There’s a constant battle for the limelight, and they seem to be constantly trying to outdo each other in terms of cuteness. It didn’t get used on our Christmas card, but it might just make it onto the wall in the hallway! The beginning of November was a scary time. Iris had been ill with what I thought was a nasty cold for a few days, when she started wheezing and became difficult to wake up. She ended up being rushed to hospital with suspected pneumonia. She likes ambulances and fire engines so she’d probably have enjoyed the ride if she’d been aware of what was going on. She ended up on oxygen, nebulisers and inhalers and stayed in for two nights. Thankfully it was a chest infection and not pneumonia. The experience affected her deeply. She wouldn’t talk about it for a few weeks, and she relapsed with using the toilet, started crying when we took her to nursery, and completely lost her appetite. She didn’t even want to play, and would just lie under a blanket on the sofa. It took a good month to get our usual Iris back. In December, I’ve discovered Marie Kondo and began a serious declutter. I didn’t realise that the mountains of junk all over my house were affecting my mental health and holding me back. Sending bags and bags of stuff to charity shops and to recycling has been life changing, which sounds cheesy and a bit daft but it’s true. It inspired me to look at other areas of my life too, and to figure out what sparks joy and get rid of what doesn’t. It’s just the beginning of a big adventure that I’m hoping will dominate 2017 and help me to get my whole life back on track. Yes, I’m aware that it’s just a book and I sound a bit silly. I’ve become an empty shell. An unhappy one. An overweight one. I have a lot to change but figuring out what’s good and embracing that might just work better than anything else I’ve tried, most of which involved seeing the negative and being angry about it. Iris was in her first Christmas show as a star, and actually wanted to wear a costume which was a shock. It was mostly Christmas songs sung in Welsh so I had no idea what was going on, but Iris was very proud of her performance. It was so cute it brought me to tears!We went to Puxton Park with my mum and my sister’s family for the fourth year in a row. It’s become our little tradition, and we’ve gone from having three kids between us to having seven in that time! I can’t believe Christmas has come around again so quickly. It’s been another lovely one this year, and the first one where Iris had understood it. Astrid was old enough to enjoy it too. We’ve all eaten too much and lazed around. I’ve been weaning myself off the medication I’ve been taking all year, so I’ve been feeling a little poorly and very very anxious. I’m completely overwhelmed with it all today and it’s made me feel quite ill. I want to enjoy the last few days of the festive season but it’s all a bit much and I’m looking forward to getting back to normal. There’s so much tidying up to do. The house is trashed and it’s making me sweaty and netvous. I don’t seem to be able to just enjoy anything anymore! Despite currently feeling quite bleak and exhausted, I’m determined that next year is going to be different. I’m going to feel better and take better care of myself, which will mean I can take better care of my family too. It’s all going to change. Wish me luck!! Happy new year!
 

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Dick Whittington! A night out at the panto. 

This time last year, Rhondda Cynon Taff council invited us along to see Cinderella, a pantomime at Aberdare’s Coliseum Theatre and we had an absolute ball. So obviously we were absolutely delighted to be given the opportunity again this year, and last night me and Iris went along. As we live just over the mountain from the village used as the set for Sky One comedy series ‘Stella’ we’re big fans, and a member of the cast has joined the panto again. This year it’s Di Botcher, or ‘Auntie Brenda’, playing Fairy Auntie Bobells. Frank Vickery returns as Sarah the cook, and Maxwell James is yet again the heart throb of the show as Dick Whittington. Johnny Tudor (also in Stella, as well as 3 episodes of Gavin and Stacey) plays Alderman Fitzwarren. For me though, the real star of the show is Ryan Owen as Tommy the cat who has the best costume, the funniest lines and great songs including Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off’. 

The costumes are really incredible. Tommy the cat is clad in tight Lycra with fur, heavy make up and pointy ears. Dick Whittington looks great in his stripy leggings, and King Rat has very sinister glowing red eyes! The wildest costumes, as always, are reserved for the pantomime dame. Sarah the Cook has some really impressive costume changes that made me and the rest of the audience laugh out loud! Iris gave me a look after one costume change that clearly said ‘what on earth is she wearing?’. The crew of dancers changed often too, with my personal favourite being the super sparkly rat costumes with long bumpy tails. The scenery was beautifully painted, and the set looked great. There were many location changes and they were done so well. 

The best bits of any pantomime are the songs, and there were some really great ones. Iris’s favourite was a slightly altered version of the Paw Patrol theme tune, and mine was a hilariously chaotic version of ’12 Days of Christmas’ that left me exhausted just watching. The actors must be so tired from doing that every night! The story finishes with a happy ending, of course, and a song from Hairspray that really got us up and dancing. A strange coincidence as we’d watched Hairspray on TV earlier in the day. 

As an English person in Wales, I still find the accent and the way people speak really fascinating. The panto is extra amusing because most of the characters have a Welsh accent, even though it wasn’t set in Wales, and there were lots of references to local places that got everybody laughing. Even me, with my limited knowledge of the area. 

I think the crew of dancers were mostly the same ones as last year, and some of them look really very young. Being part of the panto must be such an incredible thing to do as a child! The routines were wonderful, and Iris spent as much of the evening as I would let her dancing in the aisle trying to copy the dance moves. She’s pretty groovy, my curly haired girl. Audience participation is such a big part of the show. Lots of booing and hissing was done, as well as plenty of “Oh no we didn’t”s. 

Having ice cream from our favourite place, Sub Zero, available in the interval was an extra bit of magic that we didn’t expect. We had an absolute blast, and it’s started the Christmas season of nicely. Pantomime is such a big Christmas tradition, and being able to share it with Iris is great. She’s been talking about last night’s ‘Christmas Show’ all day today so it’s obviously stick with her even though the story and jokes mostly went over her head. 

There are only a couple of shows left at the Coliseum before it moves to the Park and Dare in Treorchy. If you’re looking for a really Christmassy thing to do with your family in the local area then this is it. It really gets you in the mood for the celebrations! Tickets are available here, from the RCT Arts website, but hurry up because they are selling out fast! 

*We were invited along free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All words and opinions are my own. Picture credit to RCT Council*

Camping in the forest yet again…2016 

Both of my children are asleep. They’re asleep upstairs and not on my lap, and they were asleep by 8:30. It’s some kind of miracle, so despite not really being in the mood for it I’m going to blog. 

It’s the third year in a row that we’ve spent the last week of the summer holidays in a tent under a rain cloud in beautiful North Wales. Search ‘camping’ in my search bar, and you’ll see that this was also our third camping trip this year. I really don’t think you can beat it for a family get away. There’s nothing quite like ‘unplugging’ your kids for a while and seeing them roam among the trees and play with nature rather than toys and electronics! 

We originally went to Beddgelert in 2014 because Trevor had such fond memories of camping holidays there as a kid. It’s like a trip down memory lane for him every year, in a good way I think. Although he has muttered ‘oh wow I think I have become my dad’ several times this holiday! Mostly when he was bumping his head on the lamp. 

There’s no way we could currently afford a holiday and for the dog to stay in kennels for a week, so camping is ideal for us. It wouldn’t be a family holiday without stinky Seb anyway. He’s like one of the kids. We forked out for a cattery for Margot and Galahad and that cost a small fortune. Luckily Batpig went to stay with a guinea pig loving friend and got so much attention he looked quite glum about coming home. 

Of course it rained. It always rains. 

To be fair, it rains almost non-stop in North Wales whether we’re there or not. It does feel like the rain clouds follow us a little bit though. It’s like the mountains of Snowdonia have a climate of their own. I keep my iPhone weather app set to show me the weather in Blaenau Ffestiniog all year round, and even when the sun is shining brightly everywhere else, it’s still raining there. We do virtually the same stuff every year. This year we vowed to slow down a little, do a bit less. I think we achieved it. We didn’t leave camp until lunchtime any of the days, which meant we had time for breakfast, a shower, and for the big kids to wander off to the play area for a while. It was nice. It took the pressure off. 

We always have to visit at least one castle (last year we visited what felt like about 400 castles) and this year we managed two. My favourite two. 

Dolbadarn is my favourite by far. It’s not even a castle as such. Just the ruins of one tower, high in a hill over Llanberis. Trevor and the kids always insist on having a sword battle on the steps, complete with chain mail costumes and wooden swords. You used to be able to go halfway up the spiral staircase in the tower, so it was a surprise to find out that you can now go all the way up to the top. Although this discovery did almost cause Trevor to die of shock, when the biggest kid climbed right up there and shouted “I’ve climbed right to the top!”. His “get down right now!” squeal gave away how frightened he was. He thought she’d jumped the barrier and was walking around the top of the walls! Actually you come out of the top of the staircase in a safety cage so you can’t fall off. It’s a pretty amazing view! 

Actually, as much as I like Dolbadarn, I like Llanberis for the park and the lake. We started our visit in Pete’s Eats, a pretty famous climber cafe near the start of the Snowdon path. It does pretty standard fried breakfast type food, but the kids love it there. It was slightly less fun this year as we were constantly bothered by wasps! Then we head to the lake. Seb is first to jump in, but Iris is quick to strip off and jump right in behind him. She started off paddling in pants and shirt, but it was only moment before she fell right in! It was absolutely freezing, but she doesn’t seem to feel it! After the dog and the kids had a paddle, we stopped by the play area for a while before hiring a row boat. I volunteered to look after Seb on the bank (which was a pretty easy job because he swam out and followed the boat around!) so that I could enjoy some rare sunshine while Astrid snoozed on me. Iris was chuffed to bits with her bright orange life jacket, but didn’t last long in the boat before they had to row back in and drop her off. Iris put on a performance of ‘acrobats’ in the bandstand to finish off a nice trip. 

My second favourite castle is Harlech, and I’ve never even been inside. 

This is because the dog isn’t allowed in, and somebody has to sit outside on the grass drinking takeaway coffee in the sun using the snoozing dog as a pillow. Without any kids. That somebody is me. Poor me. My short break outside Harlech castle was spoiled a bit this year by a loud and angry man who sat by me and shouted at somebody on the phone. Trevor and all four kids were having a great time inside though. Trevor was wearing Astrid in a sling, which meant Iris had to walk around and she handled it pretty well with a bit of help on the narrow spiral staircases. We followed up the castle visit with ice creams with flags in the top. 

The other thing we really love to do while we’re in North Wales is to travel around by steam train. Camping in the Forest is a great campsite for this, as it actually has a steam train station in the campsite! Our pitch was right by the station this year, which meant we had an excellent view of passing trains and we spent rather a lot of time waving at strangers as the trains chugged by. We caught the train from our tent to Beddgelert one afternoon, then visited Gelert’s Grave and had dinner in the Saracen’s Head before walking back in the dark. Iris rode on Trevor’s shoulders and decided that wearing a torch on your head is the most exciting thing ever for a two year old. 

I highly recommend the Saracen’s Head if you’re ever in the area. It’s hard to find somewhere that is accepting of toddlers, babies, noisy children and a wet muddy dog. The food is excellent too. I could eat the veggie burger every day and not get bored. The kid’s menu is great, and the desserts are just delicious. 

Our other favourite place to eat is Tan y Bwlch train station. We drove to Blaenau Ffestiniog, where Iris got upset and could only be cheered up by spending her pocket money on a wooden cat called Gringo in a lovely shop called This and That. We had a long wait for the train so got cakes and milkshakes for the kids in a cafe, before strolling over to the station and finding a carriage. This is our third year, yet Seb’s still not keen on the trains. He settles once he’s on, but he stays under the seat and won’t look out of the window. Iris is the opposite, and it’s a big job just to make sure she keeps her hands and head inside the window! As well as great food, Tan y Bwlch station has a little train themed play area. Although they’ve enjoyed it in previous years, the novelty of it is wearing off for the bigger two. Which is a shame in a way as Iris has just reached an age where she really appreciates a good play area. Once we’ve eaten and had a play, we like to head down the hill to the lake. Another lake! Guess what Iris wanted to do? 

The biggest kid insisted on actually changing into a bikini and getting in. Why don’t kids feel the cold? A little while later we had a bunch of wet shivery kids and only a few minutes to get back for the last train! We’re that sort of family. The kind that leaves everything to the last minute, but it’s usually because we’re too busy having fun.

We made a decision to use our last whole day as a campsite day. We’d have to walk the dog but we wouldn’t take the van anywhere or go anywhere specific. It was lucky we hadn’t planned much because the rain was absolutely torrential. It had kept us awake all night and it was relentless until mid afternoon, when it finally eased up. Everything was drenched. We hung out in the tent quite a bit, but the rain was so loud we could barely hear each other, and we were a bit worried it’d continue into the next day and we’d have to pack the tent away in it! We finally decided we’d just have to face it, so we all put our waterproofs on. We were one pair of trousers short, so poor Trevor had to brave the downpour in his jeans. We took the long forest walk and ended up walking all the way into Beddgelert. I had Iris in my back in a carrier. She was wrapped up really warm and in waterproofs, and she slept for most of the walk. In Beddgelert the kids spent the last of their holiday pocket money in a gift shop, and then we headed back the short way. On arrival back at the campsite, most of our waterproof gear had failed and we were all drenched through. Iris was still in my back but was looking pale and was shivering! I thought we’d made her poorly with our daft walk in the rain and I felt so guilty. I took her straight to the shower block, stripped her off and put her under the warm water. Iris has only just got over her fear of showers, but she would not be convinced to get out and get dressed! She just kept pressing the shower button again and again while I waited. Not long after she returned to her usual colour, she decided to get out. Immediately she began to shiver again, so I wrapped her up and we snuggled under the covers in bed for a while. She was fine once she warmed through, although both her and Astrid developed a cold the next morning! And that was that. One last meal at the Saracen’s Head, one last night, and one more breakfast in the forest. Time to pack up. We were all a bit gutted. Actually, we’ve been back over a week and I’m still gutted. I’d been anxious about taking Iris away when she’d just decided she doesn’t wear nappies anymore. She had quite a lot of accidents because she didn’t really know where she was or where she could go to the loo. We carried a potty everywhere with us and she did use it a lot. However, it turned out to be a very good time and place for her to learn. Her accidents all happened outdoors, mostly on the forest floor! I’m already looking forward to next year. It’ll be the best one yet, I reckon! Astrid will most likely be walking, and Iris will be three! It’ll be the week before she starts at school, and the week before the biggest kid moves to high school. How exciting! 

Warren Mill Farm Park

  She used to be obsessed with ducks, but Iris recently moved her attentions onto chickens. I think this is partly to do with an episode of Twirlywoos where they collect a whole basketful of eggs. It makes Iris run wildly around the room yelling ‘cluck cluck cluck!’  I previously thought there weren’t any little farms around here where I can feed her interest, and then somebody told me about this place. 

It’s in Cowbridge in the middle of nowhere, way off the beaten track and not accessible by public transport at all. This makes it an impossible place for us to visit while Trevor is working, but it’s a nice spot for a weekend family afternoon out. However it’s very near to Hendrewennol fruit farm, which is another place we love to visit. Not just for the fruit picking, but for the fantastic natural play area. Hendrewwenol is easier to find, but once you get near you start seeing ‘farm park’ signs. Mostly handmade ones with the writing made from duct tape. 

You’re greeted by animals before you even get inside. There are rabbits and chickens running loose around the car park. I’m not sure it’s intentional or a good idea. 

It’s very inexpensive to get in. It costs a tenner for all of us, and we usually give the kids some change to buy animal feed from the friendly guy on the gate. 

  

I’ll be honest, the whole place looks like the old guy on the gate knocked it up from some bits of wood he’s been keeping in his shed for years in case it one day becomes useful. I’m slightly worried now that this is what Trevor has planned for all the wood he’s hoarding. I do love the way the place seems so homemade though.

 
 Some of the animals don’t seem to even have enclosures, or anywhere in particular to live. There are several holes in the ground all around the place, and occasionally a prairie dog will pop up and wait until somebody feeds it. They’re so tame they will eat from your hands. This is the best thing ever according to Iris, who spends much of her time at home trying to force feed the cats with dog food. Actually, lots of the animals will eat from your hands. Goats, chickens, ducks and rabbits. Some of the loose (escaped?) animals will even chase you for it. 

  The only animals you can’t feed are the pigs. They have a big sign telling you not to. I can’t decide if it’s because the food isn’t suitable or because they’ll eat your hands. 

Once you’ve fed the smaller animals you cross a small bridge over a stream. There’s a little catering hut there. I can’t comment on it as we’ve only ever had ice lollies. They were pretty good though, and very cheap. There’s also a play area here. It’s mostly bikes and ride on toys, plus a couple of swings and a little slide. One of the kids put Iris on a swing last time we were there, and she fell off landing in a huge puddle of mud. She spent the rest of the visit running around in her nappy. Thankfully it was a warm day. 

  

Up behind the play area are the bigger animals. There are ponies, more goats, some sheep, alpaca (or llamas, I never know the difference) and a really big mean looking ram. There were tiny little pony foals there recently. So sweet! 

Despite being basic and frankly a bit strange in places, I highly recommend the place. We’ve had two fantastic visits and the kids have had the best time. It’s one of those places I think we’ll find ourselves visiting often, especially if Iris’s interest in animals continues. 

  

When it comes in more than threes. 

You know those little periods in life where lots of little things go wrong? Silly little frustrating things that don’t really matter but build up to leave you feeling exhausted and just a little bit pissed off? We had a few days like that. 

It started on Friday. Me, Trevor and Iris hopped on a train to Cardiff, then we split and went on our separate ways. Iris and I to Bristol, to spend a weekend with my mum. Trev to Cornwall, to pick up our new wheels and drive them all the way home. Iris was no trouble. She’s so used to trains now, it doesn’t really bother her. She watched Twirlywoos on my iPad and stood on the seat to have a dance. Trev’s journey was long but went smoothly. It was all going well. 

At Bristol Parkway I got off the train with a pushchair, my chubby one year old and three big heavy bags to be greeted by a sign informing me that all of the lifts were being replaced and were switched off. Great. They do have staff there to help you, but they also have a lot of steps! From the platform to the bridge, a nice man held the front of the pushchair and went up the stairs first. This meant I had the weight of Iris, the pushchair and all of our stuff. Ouch. My poor hips. On the stairs back down I was informed it’s their policy that they can only help with empty pushchairs. Strange how only some staff are following this policy! So he carried my empty and not particularly heavy pushchair while I carried Iris and three huge bags. Still, it could be worse. All wheelchair users were being redirected to Temple Meads. Miles away, and with very poor bus links. I’m not sure how they’re getting away with it. Is it even legal to run an inaccessible train station? And why wasn’t I informed on the train beforehand? 

Saturday went without a hiccup. We had a really quite lovely family day out. 

On Sunday our crap luck continued. 

Trevor had dropped the new van off at the valeters, and left it there overnight as he was very busy finishing the decking in the garden. On Sunday morning he walked down to pick it up to find it wouldn’t start. Flat battery. The valeters had left the lights on. They were closed. The garage next door was closed. He failed to get the battery off himself, and walked back home feeling a bit pissed off. Then one of his power tools broke too. 

Meanwhile, we were out for lunch in Bath before visiting my grandfather. After waiting a lifetime for our order to even be taken, the manager plonked a scolding hot plate of bangers and mash in front of Iris. Before we had time to react, she’d stuck a finger in the mash and had burnt herself. Half an hour later and she finally calmed down, and none of us had actually managed to eat our food. We did complain, but nobody really cared. Poor Iris. 

Then on the train home that afternoon, Iris lunged off her train seat to get a better look at a guide dog that had just got on. I had hold of her leg, but her face still hit the floor and one of her brand new teeth cut into her top lip. She sobbed for the next half and hour and covered us both in blood, but finally calmed down and ended up lying on the floor stroking the guide dog she’d so desperately wanted to meet. I didn’t calm down for a whole day or more. I felt like the world’s crappest mother ever. Poor kiddo.  

 
It didn’t stop there. On Monday Trevor picked us up from playgroup as he was in town collecting his new glasses, and as we were still and waiting to pull out of the car park, somebody drove into the side of the car. The old car, thankfully, and there is only a tiny mark. It terrified me though, as they hit the door next to Iris’s seat and the noise was worse than the impact. Trevor was furious, and the offending driver wasn’t even shaken up. In fact she wasn’t really bothered.  She complained to Trevor that it was a brand new car like it was his fault. 

Why do these things come in such big numbers? They may only be little incidences and not a big deal, but really, why so many all in one go? How many days have to go by before I can be sure we’ve got passed it? I’m almost scared to go out. 

I know this is silly. 

I’m just in so much pain, and I’m so tired. I’m determined I won’t be stopped by the SPD this time. It’s not fair on Iris. We may slow down slightly over winter, but I don’t want her to miss out on seeing friends and family and going to playgroups. So I just keep going. Thankfully I now have a prescription for some stronger painkillers and a referral for physiotherapy. I couldn’t convince doctors to give me either of those when I was pregnant with Iris, so it’s definitely an improvement. It is so hard not to let little things really get to you when you have been awake all night because you need a wee every five minutes and you feel all unbalanced and hormonal. 

Pictures of the Weekend #7

IMG_4981.JPG Iris’ first ever train journey – to Bristol!, spotting pumpkins in Bristol Aquarium, baby seahorses, little frogsIMG_5124.JPGFriday night, Saturday morning, designing pumpkin faces, chip shop lunchIMG_5125.JPGPlaying Peppa Pig shop, scooping out the pumpkins, carving, Ta-Da!IMG_5126.JPGAirbrush art, dog walking, puddles, trouble with mudIMG_5127.JPGChasing Daddy, playing dressing up, poo-splosion, nap timeIMG_5128.JPGBarry Island!, our salty sea dog, fetch on the beach, seaside Sunday lunchIMG_5129.JPGThe firefighting game, Gavin and Stacey, trying to pick up a very big stick, drying off

The weather in Bristol on Friday was fabulous, and I hear it stayed like that for much of the weekend. We’re very very jealous. We planned to see a firework display but heavy rain cancelled that plan for us. The rest of the weekend was cold and wet. Obviously we decided this was perfect beach weather! Do your worst, weather. This family will still be having wonderful weekends!

Negative Nigel

Last night I wrote a big old negative post here but I’ve decided not to share it. Trev would call me ‘Negative Nancy’. I prefer to use ‘Negative Nigel’ for reasons perhaps only my little sister would understand.

Basically, it’s tough, isn’t it?

I’m just an empty container where my personality used to be stored. I don’t do any of the things that define me as me anymore and sometimes I find that quite hard to deal with. This is a new me, and I’ll probably come to like her eventually, but right how she just seems a bit blank.

Yeah, I’m a mama. I’m everything to Iris and hopefully quite important to Trev too. But what about me?

I’m new here. I make a massive effort to get out of the house with Iris and meet other mums. I really do. And I think I’ve got some fledgling friendships, just starting to form. It’s great! But I haven’t quite found my place, discovered who I am now. Who is the mama-in-Wales me? I don’t still knit, there isn’t time. I don’t bake much. I don’t hang out at the pub or even in the cafe. I don’t do very much at all, really.

I musn’t moan. There’s no point. I’ll focus my efforts, as usual, on trying not to get too stressed about housework and on getting more sleep.

I haven’t seen most of my friends in months and months. It’s not their fault I’m far away. The few times I have spent with old friends are so precious. I miss my mum too. My grandfather and my sister. I hope they know I miss them.

This post is a lot less negative than the one I originally wrote. I’m glad about that. I hope it goes some way too explain why I haven’t been writing so much. I feel sad that my brand new blog has become, already, a place for moaning with the occasional photograph. I’ll turn it around. I’ll turn it around right now. Or after this nap, anyway.

IMG_4934.JPG
Old Me

IMG_4935.JPGNew Me