Keeping busy

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What baby gal plays with

You may have read my recent musings on what to buy my daughter for her first birthday. Well with a few days to go before the big day, this is what she really likes to play with. I’m thinking I really should have saved my pennies because baby gal’s most favourite obsessions include:

1. A sweet potato, complete with string bag. It just keeps on being taken out of the cupboard, so much more interesting than the onions and garlic it sits alongside.

2. A paper Penny Farthing hand crafted by her brother. This masterpiece, stuck to a lolly stick, has a separate rider which has also been pulled apart, chewed and enjoyed by baby gal.

3. A stone. Not a small pebble, but a big old stone which we picked up on Caldy beach a few weeks ago. Perfect for dropping on toes, clobbering brothers with etc.

4. A Gruffalo notebook. She has been trying to write in this with a felt pen, doubling the excitement. Following in her parents’ journalistic footsteps perhaps?

5. A loom band bracelet, of course.

6. A plastic Darth Vader head. Even though it has a game inside, it’s just the head she likes. See number three, top weaponry.

7. A bow and arrow. Along the lines of numbers three and six, but the more dangerous the toy, the better. She especially likes taking the arrow in her fist and aiming it at my eye. Fabulous!

So although I am sticking with the gorgeous handmade doll for her birthday gift, I know she will still prefer the potato bag. Perfect gift wrap, perhaps?

A gentle reminder

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Comparison is the thief of joy – Theodore Roosevelt.

How true this is. I heard this the other day and have been thinking about it ever since. It came into my head when I helped my son cut down the sunflower he had grown for a competition at school – he was so excited, he even hung a toy medal round its stalk, yet at 83cm tall (the results have been counted and verified) I knew he had little chance of winning.

The thought of him being disappointed made me think, I wish he could just stay happy that he’s managed to grow such a cool flower all by himself? He tried his best, even though our garden doesn’t get the sun all day and his flower had been munched on by caterpillars. Anyway, he didn’t win, and of course that’s ok, it’s all part of healthy competition, I just didn’t want him to lose that joy.

It came into my head too, many more times this week while I’ve been thinking about where I am in life, what I’m doing now and what I’d like to achieve. I started this blog, for example, as a bit of a hobby, a way of writing more creatively and sharing ideas about things I like with the wider world. I mean, why not? It seems like a kind of fun thing to do. Maybe someone will be touched by something I write or be inspired by it, who knows, even if I make just one person smile through doing it, then it will have been a success. But the more I get into blogging, the more blogs I read, and the more I feel there are so many people doing the same thing that can I really be a voice that can be heard? Then I remember the quote, and just think well, if I get something out of it then I’m just going to keep going. Who knows where it will take me, and the people I will meet. I’ve already met quite a few, and if you’re reading this, hi!

It came into my head when listening to my husband talk frankly about how he has changed since being ill, and how a once fit and healthy man could have changed to being someone who needs to be cared for, when really all he wants to do is to be able to care for those around him. After having two major operations on his abdomen, he’s understandably self-conscious about how he might look with the scars those ops have left behind. Yet to me, they’re signs of survival and pure strength.

Perhaps we all need a reminder of the how comparing ourselves to others may not always be the most helpful way to go. I’m not saying we shouldn’t compare ourselves at all, as there’s a lot to be said for looking to others to see how we can change. It’s just that we need to make sure we keep an eye on how we can applaud the things we do that we can be proud of. After all, we encourage this in our children, so why not in ourselves?

Party hats and darling dolls

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It’s just hit me, tomorrow is July and it’s less than two weeks until my baby gal turns one. Better get organising, as first born has been talking about the party we will throw for her for weeks now. In his mind this involves all his friends and all his sister’s baby friends, playing games such as putting the babies in the middle and the older kids dancing round them! Sounds highly unlikely to me, not least because the way things have gone this year I have hardly made it to any play groups and my daughter’s social life is not quite as far-reaching as my son’s was.

Baby gal’s baby friends are probably limited to two! So I think the plan is to have a small gathering, weather permitting in the garden, with lots of bubbles, cake, and party hats… if I’m brave enough to try to wrestle one onto the birthday girl. I reckon I’m going to try and make some, inspired by this kind of look from Caravan Shoppe. I just stumbled across this site and it’s fantastic, so many cool things to be inspired by, and best of all you can print out these hats for free! I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

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Anyway that’s the hats sorted, now what about the pressies? I want to buy something really special for my daughter’s first birthday, so I’ve been looking around for inspiration and come up with a few ideas.

When I was small, I had a favourite doll called Audrey who went absolutely everywhere with me. She had her hair pulled, tweaked and cut off until it was completely bald at the back and sticking straight up on the top. One of the family, Audrey even made an appearance at our wedding when my dad brought her out during his speech. Experience tells me you can’t pick your child’s favourite toy, but if I could pick an Audrey for my baby girl I would pick one of these.

From Cambridge-based Lula Handmade, these rag dolls are created from upcycled vintage fabric and have a wonderfully vintage feel to them. I love that they can be customised too, it makes them that little bit more unique. Looking through the colour options now reminds me of when I was little, lining up toys in the shop with my mum, deciding which one had the cutest face! Am I the only one who did that?!

I also love this Red Riding Hood handmade doll, from Wild Things Funky Little Dresses. They also make gorgeous outfits for kids aged 0-6, definitely worth a look.

What are your best present ideas for a one-year-old? Apart from the boxes and wrapping paper they come in… I would love to know. X

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Donna Wilson love

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Cyril Squirrel-fox

With two small people in the house, there are more than enough toys to go round. Two of my favourite, however, came to live here way before any children came along. They are Olive Owl and Cyril Squirrel-Fox, beautifully knitted woollen creatures from Scottish designer Donna Wilson.

Cyril came first, a surprise gift from my husband bought from Liverpool’s fab Bluecoat Display Centre, and Olive came slightly later. Since our family has got bigger, I’ve tried my best to keep our small ones’ tiny fingers away from my knitted pals, which isn’t easy given they are so cute, huggable and soft to touch. This week was the final straw for Cyril. What once was a small hole in his tail (I suspect started by first born) grew into a larger one when baby gal got to grips with him. So I got in touch with the lovely people at Donna Wilson and luckily they said they could mend him at their London-based studio. So off he’s popped, in first class post down to the Big Smoke for a bit of TLC! I’ll have to find a suitable place to keep him safe on his return.

Meanwhile, I’ve been browsing around the Donna Wilson website and have built up a wish list of their gorgeous homeware and artwork. Who could resist drinking their tea out of the Mog mug, or their gin and slims from a Rock The Boat tumbler? But then, I do have a bit of a mug obsession that has to be reined in.

Cyril with damaged tail

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Mog Mug by Donna Wilson
On The Rocks tunbler by Donna Wilson

Fruity cuteness

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How cute is this little watermelon bag? I’m loving all the fruit prints that are around at the moment and couldn’t resist buying this for one of my son’s friends. It’s another one of those that I could quite happily have kept for myself. It’s got it all, fruity kitsch and a bit of glitter and sparkle, what more does a girl need? I must admit, I do own a purse which I once whipped out at a bar to buy a round of g&t’s, and my friend remarked it looked more like something his little girl would own. I suppose I always go for a little bit of cuteness!

Talking of which, I’ve got a major crush on this Topshop skirt and am feeling more than a little bit sad that it’s sold out on their website. Probably something to do with the fact that Jessica Alba has been photographed wearing it this week, looking fab. This one is £48 if it ever comes back in stock, let’s hope it does. I love midi skirts, they’re just that bit longer so they swish around beautifully (also making the perfect grabbing tool for a nearly-walking small person, doubling up for them as a hankie/teething cloth). Perfect on so many levels!

Maybe I’ll stick with the fruity theme and go for this lovely pineapple print skirt from River Island (left). At £28 it’s more of a bargain buy and super summery. I think I need some retail therapy!

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Tired number one

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Tomorrow is the summer solstice and I’m wondering how to celebrate. Breakfast at sunrise perhaps? Oh hang on, I did that today! No need for a repeat performance tomorrow, kids. I’ve always been an early bird but waking up on your own when the sun shines through your curtains is not quite the same as being woken up by a crying babe, is it? Thank goodness for the gorgeous smiles I got from baby gal when I did manage to haul myself out of bed at 5.30am.

Now here I am, it’s 7pm and I’m one child down, one to go! I needed a bit of a power nap in between tonight. Or rather, a power lie down with the cold cup of tea I made an hour ago. So here is my unashamed no filter selfie, brought to you with a funny story from my first born.

When he saw my t-shirt this morning, he said, “Mum, does that say number one? But you’re not number one, you’ve never done anything good!” “Aaahh, ok,” I said. “Would you like to hear about all the cool stuff I’ve done in my life?” Then started to gear myself up with all the stuff I’ve done which actually is not that extraordinary but might make a good story for a five-year-old. Like trekking to Macchu Picchu while battling a sickness bug, working on a radio station in France, winning a fancy dress contest dressed as a strawberry.

But there was no time for that then, as even though we got up so early, I still needed to iron his jumper and shepherd us all out the door to school. Seems like one of the cool things I haven’t managed to do so far is learn how to be organised. At least there are more (sunny) hours in the day tomorrow.

Father’s Day and #7daysofreality

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This Father’s Day was always going to be different from the last one. For a start, last year the father in question was in hospital and we visited him in his hot, stuffy room, making the best of a bad situation. This year we had the father back home and one more child in the family. Double cause for celebration, you might think, only some days don’t go to plan do they?

It started with first born’s disgruntled moans of, “Why haven’t I got a present? I’m going to be a father soon too!” Enough to make both mum and dad choke on their tea – he is only five, after all.

It ended with me blurting out what my husband assures me is a rite of passage for all frazzled parents – those fateful words spoken in a fit of pique, “I’m going to give you away!” Aaarrrhhh! I’m feeling ridden with guilt just writing it down, the poor child, and have resolved to be super mum for the rest of the week to atone my sins.

It’s funny how some days things just go badly from start to finish. Perhaps it was because I’d been reading a great blog post the day before on Sisterhood and All That called #7daysofreality. It was all about how rather than try to paint a picture of perfection through the #100happydays meme currently doing the rounds on social media, we should bring a rather more real view to our friends. After all, although I’m sure we all have those beautiful ‘Kodak moments’ in our lives – and don’t get me wrong, we had been out for a beach picnic the day before and had an absolutely fantastic time – how many of our lives are picture perfect all the time?

So I’d love to post a picture which showed me trying to reason with my tired and disgruntled son, but unsurprisingly it wasn’t a moment to be caught on camera. So instead, here is a super-cute photo of the gnome he painted for his dad instead, complete with flamboyant moustache. Although my son can wind me up sometimes, he is also a loving, fun-filled, lively and creative character who is always up for making things (he was sellotaping legs onto a model at 7am this morning). So along with his dad being back at home, and his sister being well installed in our little family, what greater gift could there be?