September’s Eve 🍂

Just a quick update tonight as August tumbles into September, with so many thoughts whirling in my head as we settle in to a gently shifting change in season once again.

Our world the last few weeks has been filled with a back-to-school air – or off to school for the very first time really, as our biggest girl has started school nursery, and we have found ourselves in the primary school playground every day for drop offs and pick ups, finding our feet in a whole new world. She is settling in so well to nursery life despite what a big leap it seems to have been for her from her couple of mornings at playgroup last year, and it’s wonderful to hear all the new stories every day.

It’s been a time of transition for all of us in a smaller way, maybe most of all for our littlest who is adjusting to mornings without her sister around. We’ve picked back up with our usual toddler groups, music classes and song and rhyme sessions, only this time I just have her in tow, and she’s found that a bit different, her natural confidence taking a little longer to come out without her usual shadow to walk in. But it’s been really really lovely watching her too adapt to a new stage, growing in independence and changing all the time.

For my part, I’m enjoying this new era as much as the ones before it, especially with the freedom that’s returned more over the summer, and making the most of the time I have both with one and with two. Today after the nursery drop off, on a wander with tiny down to a lovely free sing-along session in a museum in town, we discovered a little library we had no idea was there. It was so nice to be able to choose a book to take home for the kids and we have some of theirs and mine we need to donate so it’ll be a lovely place to do it on our next walk.

After our little class, as we walked back up the hill, we came across a gated entrance that captured her attention, and I’d forgotten how enjoyable it was to be able to just take the path because she fancied it and do the exploring. Before we knew it we’d wound down into the glen with the squirrels and birds and it was a lovely impulse to be able to follow.

And we only had to wait until this afternoon for the pace to be shifted once again with both girls back home together (we’re building up the nursery hours slowly over the year so still have lots of times all of us). It was lovely just to settle at home, read our new book all together, do some quiet activities and enjoy the old routine.

Spent some time in the garden too in the newly-fresh air, a slight nip to it today after so long of hot days – with the kittens out too for one of their first wee plays while we watched them explore (just over 4 months now and a pair of energy-filled leggy tearaways at the moment, full of fun and doing well ☺️).

There’s so much else been going on I will write more on later – the pony doing well as we come to the to the end of the summer and making a start on getting him prepared for winter, starting to feel more settled into my new job at the weekends and the training along with it too keeping me busy of an evening, my husband taking his first tentative steps back to office life some days (though still with the home office as the default for foreseeable future which we’re so thankful for for time all together).

One of the things we’ve been most glad of in the last few weeks in the midst of everything else is that we have had some wonderful chances to catch up with friends and family. At the weekend we had the loveliest family garden gathering under twinkling lights, breathing in the smell of woodsmoke and the togetherness we’ve missed so much. It can feel sometimes to an extent like we’re still living tentatively in a hangover from all the disruption to life last year, and so it was so liberating to have such an old-school family day and night and remember how much we love to assemble. 🥰 I’m looking forward so much now to a season ahead of wrapping up for chiminea nights and cosy gatherings. ❤️

Hope you are all well, and wish you a really lovely start to September.. 🍁

October Holidaying at Home

In October we had our second at-home holiday of the year, when we had a week off all together that we’d had booked since the beginning of the year. We had loosely planned when our summer holiday was cancelled back in July to take some time away in October instead but with all the uncertainty hadn’t actually got round to either re-booking our caravan holiday planned just south of the border into England, or our plan B of booking one of our favourite places not too far away here in Scotland instead – and, in the end, as coronavirus cases climbed once more, restrictions and advice ever-changing with them, we decided to do just as we did in the summer and make our October holiday an at-home one too.

I do look forward at some stage to having our first overnight trip away as a family of four and setting up camp in a holiday house or caravan all together, but, for now, it feels safer and has been just as lovely both times to just base ourselves in our own house but fill our days with so many wonderful adventures.

We were very lucky indeed that during our time off although there were some travel restrictions they did allow us to get to our families both north and south of us. Now, growing restrictions have seen us needing to stay closer to home but I’m so very glad that we had a chance to get down to Dumfries and up to Perthshire and spend some lovely time with family as part of our adventures. The travel in itself was a wonderful experience I won’t forget – driving home in the evening, stopping for a cosy tea of chips in the car – all that was permitted in certain areas along the way with restaurants closed – pyjama-ing up and car bedtime stories before the last leg home. All very 2020, but all experiences full of magic and excitement that we’ll always remember.

We also spent lots of lovely time with family and friends closer to home, mostly outdoors and adapting to cafe life for gathering too. And of course, being nearby meant we were able to spend days at the farm, where it was lovely to be able to have Charmer’s company – who is doing wonderfully well just now which is such a relief and a joy to see!

Halloween fell during our time off and we had a really wonderful time picking a pumpkin and toasting marshmallows at a patch near us, and carving our lantern and making pumpkin soup back home. We took a wrapped-up walk with the girls in their (very cosy!) Gruffalo Halloween costumes out for a little ramble and pumpkin hunt around the village as it got dark, counting the pumpkins lit on doorsteps and enjoying waving hello to other families doing the same.

As has been the case so often this year, it felt like there was just so much value in the little things we still can do, and the new traditions that are being formed out of them. I already look forward to doing something similar next year, and we really can’t wait to do lots of twinkle walks at Christmas time around the village too, looking at Christmas trees and lights.

Time is hurtling on this year more than ever and it was so lovely to have some time to pause and take it all in – can’t quite believe we have a nearly 3-year-old and a 7-month-old and what a team they have become… it was such a blessing to be able to wrap up, explore, holiday together and watch another season change.

Hope you are all well and a happy Sunday to you all. X

The Little Ones’ Books ~ Pt 2 ❤️

I’ve been meaning for a while to write about some more of the favourite books of the young team here in our little house! I have always had such a love for children’s books, some of the favourites from my childhood treasured and re-read over and over; and I’ve loved getting to know some beautiful books for very young children ever since my oldest daughter arrived. I did write one post away back at World Book Day a couple of years ago that I had always meant to be the start of many but never quite got round to it. Now, though, I’m so enjoying writing about all my own reading on here that thought it would be a lovely time to start writing about our very favourites just a few at a time.

Last time had a look at Carson Ellis’s Home, Julia Donaldson’s The Highway Rat, Jonathan Emmet’s Mole series and Janet & Allan Ahlberg’s classic Peepo!

They are all still very well-loved additions to our bookshelf. Our Julia Donaldson collection has grown and definitely now have more of hers to cover! The Mole books and Home still make for lovely quiet reading and Peepo! especially has been a frequently-selected bedtime story for the last couple of years here and is one of the many our biggest girl loves to recite from heart after so many readings. It’s become even more special to us too since our littlest daughter arrived – we love the sister squabbling for the baby on her knee, all the chaos around the littlest member of the Peepo family, and most of all that he finds so much love and security in it despite its noise and bluster. ❤️

Old Bear books, by Jane Hissey

Starting with an absolute favourite of mine, and a collection so well-loved by us all, Jane Hissey’s Old Bear books are so very special thanks to the perfectly drawn characters, the warming stories and the detailed and simply beautiful illustrations. Although like so many others we’ve got really into, these are favourites from my own childhood (my copy of Old Bear dated to me at Christmas when I was one, and a story I’ve never forgotten), it is actually some of the more recently written books that are the best loved here. The All-Together Painting, published in 2013, is a really lovely one, and the newest addition to our bookshelf is the most recent, Happy Birthday, Old Bear, a beautiful 30th anniversary special, with all the old favourites and a new character, Elsie the little grey elephant, too – who has become as much of a hit as Old Bear, Little Bear, Bramwell Brown and all the rest.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram

This is a simple and lovely bedtime story that I never get tired of and that both girls love. Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare’s lovely exchanges as they move gradually closer to bedtime are just perfect, and it’s a beautiful little book.

Baby, I Love You – illustrated by Helen Stephens

We have two copies of this very special book and I’m actually going to keep them both so both girls have one – this is a UNICEF books created and published to support babies and new parents in those blurry early days and is just so beautifully done – the illustrations are perfect. I love that there’s mess, there’s imperfections, but there’s so much love in every drawing. These are gifted here as part of babies’ first Bookbug bags, and I loved receiving them both times, a really lovely, calming and reassuring gift for all the family to mark such a big moment.

Alfie: The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook by Shirley Hughes

This is one that arrived with us in lockdown – our biggest girl got a wonderful birthday present from her grandparents of the chance to choose a book a month through the year. We have had a great time doing it (mostly having them delivered as it’s turned out instead of bookshop browsing as planned!) and it’s been so nice that it can grow with her and be the perfect book for now. All our outdoor play in lockdown – gardens and tents and exploring the world on our doorstep – lent itself perfectly to being completely swept up in Alfie’s adventures, and all his games with his little sister Annie-Rose were wonderful too as we adapted to sibling relationships here. Shirley Hughes’ drawings bring nature to life in such a beautiful way, and this is a lovely collection.

There are so many books we’ve come across and loved, will definitely write with some more soon!

Hope you are all having a good weekend. X

May Days 🌸

Life is moving at a very swift pace as we’ve somehow made our way through April and arrived into May. Our youngest daughter has just turned 5 weeks old, and so for us these weeks have been centred around settling into life as a family of four. The first couple were undoubtedly a blur, sleep very elusive and everything a new and different whirlwind, but the last few weeks everything has hit a very steady rhythm and we’ve had time and space to settle to all our new roles and to getting to know our little girl.

Lockdown continues to be in place here and defines our days at the moment – its biggest impact on us at the moment being separation from our closest family and friends, which I really am feeling now, especially knowing how desperate they are to meet our newest addition. Very conscious however how very blessed we are just to have the health of our loved ones in this uncertain time, and how important it is to follow all advice to weather this pandemic. In the meantime trying to focus on positives, the chance to have so much focused time as our little unit here being a big one. We leave the house once a day for our walk, all together wherever we can, which serves as our exercise and fresh air and also leads us into a much-needed nap time for the oldest little one too! Other than that we’re focused at home, inside and in the garden where it’s been wonderful to have such amazing weather.

Life has returned in some ways to “normal” this week with my husband back to work after paternity leave – but as that is just at the kitchen table it’s a much gentler transition than it would have been otherwise! Finding my feet creating the day’s routines for two little ones and juggling what they both need, and been so enjoying the time with them and entering into this new chapter. Online story and rhyme sessions and at-home versions of yoga and music classes have made their return, tents and makeshift “parks” have been popping up in the garden, and we’ve had FaceTimes with my oldest’s little friends – it’s all different and unusual but we are finding our way with it all and enjoying the challenge – and the wonderful benefits too, like being able to shout my husband through yesterday to witness our baby’s first wide-mouthed smiles!

I’m so grateful to still be able to be getting along to check on the pony too, and very happy to see him looking healthy and thriving on the transition into summer. My photos in my last post of a fluffy bear of a pony in glinting winter sun seem so far away already as I arrive on May mornings at the farm with the sun already high in the sky at 7am, the smell of citronella spray in the air as I greet my short-coated fly-rug-clad boy.

These are undoubtedly very strange days and it can be an unsettling time for us all, but keeping focused here on how lucky we are to be well, have each other and have the technology to keep so well connected with family and friends while we look forward to getting together again. Hope everyone reading is safe and well, coping alright and enjoying the beautiful weather as May settles in. Take care all. Xx

Our new addition to the family ❤️

Just a little update from our corner of the world, where, despite life for most of us generally being suspended in time at the moment, with lockdown continuing on and every day exactly as the one before; our worlds were changed forever earlier this month with the arrival of our new baby daughter.

She is now nearly two weeks old, and it is by turns still taking us by surprise that she is here with us at last and also becoming hard to believe that she hasn’t been for much longer. Over the past couple of weeks, since she arrived safely into the world – (with the truly wonderful and unwavering help of the most incredible midwives and staff at our local hospital, despite the unprecedented times they find themselves in, for which we are just eternally grateful) – we have enjoyed our time at home as a new family of four. It is very strange not to have our family and friends around as they would be so excited to be able to be, but although we so look forward to joining with our wider family and introducing them to our little girl when we can; it has been lovely settling into a little unit here.

So very grateful for a safe arrival and for the opportunity to find our way towards some rhythms; embracing the quiet stillness of nights up with a newborn and the sleepy days that follow them, and watching our family come together – with first meals and walks as a four, first ventures for the littlest one into the spring sunshine in the garden, and our two daughters beginning to get to know each other and showing already what wonderful friends they will be; – all finding our feet together.

Just a little hello from us all and hope this continues to find you all safe and well. Xx

Lockdown adventures with the little one

Gearing up for another week of life in lockdown, and reflecting a little on the very different experience – one shared in every household across the country – that last week was. For me, it was mostly spent finding ways to keep an active and inquisitive toddler entertained while housebound, instead of with our usual routines full of morning play groups and afternoons between home and the farm. It’s been a good focus to have in the midst of all this, definitely a learning curve and a surprisingly fun challenge – and one that’s connected so many of us too, with parents sharing ideas near and far through the wonders of technology that we’re so lucky to have.

As last week went on, we settled into splitting our days up into separate sections to keep them as varied as possible, which I think we’ll stick to as this week begins. We also tried to use as many different places around the house as we could to break it up even more – starting after breakfast in the living room until snack time, up to the bedroom for a change of scene, and after lunch often out to the garden for a lot of the afternoon, with bath towards the end too – which has become a huge activity all of its own, trying to keep up swimming activities and pouring games even in the small space! 

It’s amazing how things have changed over the course of a week, and a lot of it has meant a real perspective shift, as some of the things I would previously just get done myself quickly – running bath, putting a washing on, making tea and looking after our little hamster, Sandy – have become not only activities that we can do together, but in fact also often highlights of the day. I feel guilty in fact with many of these for not working them into our day more so far, but it’s a good lesson learned and definitely something we can continue to do when all this madness is over! Mealtimes too have become such highlights, with my husband working from home it’s been lovely all of us getting together three times a day for meals instead of just once and we’ve all enjoyed more time together.

I’m so amazed at how quickly the wee one has adapted to all this, looking forward to heading up to her bedroom for some time with her dolls’ house, or out to gather sticks even just in the small area of the garden; and we were able to add some extra socialising too with video calls to family and friends, something I think we’ll do more and more as we all get used to this.

We began our week with an online version of our usual Monday music class on Zoom, which was wonderful – she so enjoyed seeing her teacher, singing her same songs and playing along with instruments at home with the other children on. Since then, we’ve utilised online activities as much as we possibly can to keep screen time as positive and as interactive as possible. Our local library has been running activity ideas, lego-building competitions, drawing lessons with children’s illustators, readings by favourite authors, which have been great to dip into. A few Bookbug sessions too, where we normally find ourselves in person at least once a week – gathered round in the library with familiar faces – have been uploaded to YouTube for using anytime, so have been brilliant for doing some songs and rhymes with actions from home. Within a couple of days it was clear how brilliant participating in online classes was, especially the ones that keep us moving, and we’ve also discovered through recommendations a couple of other ways to do the same – Cosmic Kids Yoga has been wonderful for getting some exercise in from home, accessible yoga for all the family to the narration of well-loved stories – the Very Hungry Caterpillar our favourite so far! And PE with Joe, which seems to be keeping just about every household in the UK and beyond active just now, has been wonderful too – though I hope I’m not the only one who’s realised how unfit I am through doing it!! 

As we begin this week, I think we will use these activities mostly as our starts to the days, in place of the usual groups we’d have been out at, as this seemed to work very well last week – moving on to snack and a quieter time with some of our usual stories or games later in the morning, just as we would have done on returning back home.

This is undoubtedly a very strange time for all of us, the littlest of children included; but it’s actually quite refreshing in some ways to have the challenge on our hands of finding ways to fill the day without the usual well-worn routines. There’s been a lot more time spent indoors than normal but I’m pleasantly surprised by how captivating activities like painting and stickering have become – and even more so at the imaginative play emerging just with a small play tent and a few soft toys. It’s been lovely too keeping in touch with other parents online and bouncing ideas backwards and forwards. We’re all in this together, and it feels like an experience we can all learn something from as we adapt to our new normal for the next little while. 

A big hello to everyone in the same boat, and wishing you all, whatever your situation, all the best for another week of keeping busy and keeping cabin fever at bay! 🙂 

 

2020 Visions ~ A few snapshots from the beginning of our year, and looking to the future…

As we stepped into 2020 earlier this month, it was from a full and busy end to 2019.

New Year’s Day, 2020

We had a Christmas period filled with family, friends and festivities; from our daughter’s 2nd birthday to Christmases with both sides of the family, games and merriment interspersed with a few much-appreciated quieter moments – walks underneath the twinkling lights, a time to pause at a Christmas Eve Christingle service, slow-start mornings at home just the three of us.

I also worked a few extra shifts over Christmas, my first year working in care over the holidays, and really enjoyed the chance to be a little part of such a special time of the year in the homes I visit. It was a lovely festive season – despite the logistical challenges of fitting everything in! – and one I was very grateful to have had. Still, as I always do seem to find in the steadying and refreshing first days of a whole new year; it has been wonderful to settle back in to a routine once more, open up a brand new diary, feel things slow down a little again and relax into the fresh start.

Sunrise from home, 2nd January 2020

My weekdays, spent at the moment at home looking after my daughter, have built over the last year to be generally quite structured, as we get out every morning to a toddlers group, class or a Bookbug session (the most wonderful free library singing and story groups we’re very lucky to have here for wee ones), and then in the afternoons have a walk, meet friends, do the shopping or more often than not head to the farm to spend some time with the pony. The little one really loves her routine, getting to her same groups every week with her friends and getting out and about exploring; and it’s all absolutely brilliant for building up to her heading off to nursery in what seems a crazily short time, less than a year from now!

All this was new to me last year, just coming out of maternity leave and finding my feet with it in the longer term, and our weeks were more flexible back then, being much more dictated to by ad hoc napping and feeding! This year though, I’ve so enjoyed returning to it all in much the same way I used to to work in the office, and it’s lovely to look ahead at the term unfolding.

Of course, life is going to change and rhythms adjust (or more likely be completely turned upside down!) for us in the coming months all over again, as we prepare to welcome our second child in April, with our due date now just 10 weeks away. It’s been lovely starting to get ready for that too – packing a hospital bag, getting our little crib out again and buying a new mattress for it, washing and drying baby clothes and finding it unbelievable how impossibly tiny they are!!

For his part, my old man Charmer has come through now the majority of this winter wonderfully well generally speaking – his arthritis, being managed every day this year just depending on how he’s doing, has for the most part been on an even keel.

This year I was more worried about the impact of the winter on him than ever since his legs had already been causing him some trouble in summertime; but we’ve been incredibly luckily from his point of view with the weather – not from every other horse owner’s I’m sure, or every other general winter fan, as the beautiful crisp frosty days here have been very few and far between, with generally damp, muddy and ridiculously mild weather throughout nearly all of November and December. For Charmer, this has actually been perfect, as it seems to be when the temperature drops below zero that his wee bones feel it, and so he’s managed to be sound and relatively pain-free with only some double doses of pain relief needed in the occasional colder snap. The biggest change to his management this year has been that for the first time in many years he’s managed to be wintered out (so far at least!), mostly due to an excess of grass we ended up with in the summer and a gradual re-widening of the field bit by bit over the last few months after having it partly fenced off. This has been wonderful for keeping him moving and reducing his stiffness, and he’s thrived on it so far, keeping weight on and enjoying his freedom.

He’s got to keep me on my on my toes to some extent though, of course (he just wouldn’t be him otherwise!), so at last week’s annual health check a damaged canine tooth was discovered which is unfortunately going to need X-rays and extraction up at the vet clinic next month. I just hope it can all go as smoothly as possible for him, as he is definitely not a fan of travelling in the trailer or really young enough to bounce back easily if the procedure turns out to be a complicated one; but we will just have to see how it all goes.

This year is undoubtedly going to be a big one for us all, and I’m so looking forward to it. We’ve actually been very lucky to have started it with some wonderful times already, even though we’re only a few weeks in; and it feels like we’ve had a chance to travel our beautiful country a fair bit, having started the new year in the south with my husband’s family, and last weekend having headed north for a wonderful farm weekend away with my sister. Very grateful for time with some of our favourite people in some of our favourite places, taking in amazing views and watching the beautiful January sunrises and sunsets. ❤

Looking forward to writing more in the coming months, and hope you are all having a good week. xx

 

World Book Day ~ The Beauty and Joy of Children’s Books

I have blogged before about how much I love books, especially children’s books, and really enjoyed writing about my favourite pony and animal stories from childhood – and confessing (as I absolutely don’t mind doing!) that I still keep and re-read them now. I loved looking at the Anne of Green Gables series too, which I’ve fallen in love with even more as an adult than as a child and count some of (Anne of Green Gables, Anne’s House of Dreams, Rilla of Ingleside ♥️) as my very favourite and most sustaining reads.

I really believe that reading can form such a huge part of growing and developing – and one of the things I’ve always looked forward to about having children of my own is being able to share stories with them.

We’re very lucky in Scotland to have a real focus on the importance of reading from birth onwards and even before. In antenatal classes we were encouraged to get used to reading aloud during pregnancy, Scotland’s Baby Boxes have cloth books and ideas for learning and playing from the Play Talk Read government initiative, and across the country free “Bookbug” classes are available for children from birth to school age in local libraries, run by the Scottish Book Trust, and age- appropriate books are gifted at every stage from a month on through the health visitor scheme, along with a calendar full of ideas for learning and developing.

In our short parenting journey so far we have discovered so many beautiful books for all ages through these recommendations, gifted to us by friends and family, passed down from our own childhoods or found in book shops and libraries; and are loving reading them to our little daughter. As so many of them are so special, I thought I’d love to write about them here, just a few at a time – and World Book Day seems the perfect day to start!

Home by Carson Ellis ~

The simple concept of this treasure of a book is the focus on all the many places different people call home; and it is the intracacy of its beautiful illustrations as much as its few well-chosen words that tell these stories so relatably and capture the imagination.

The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler ~

Couldn’t possibly have failed to include The Highway Rat as it fits so perfectly with the theme of this blog! It was a book I chose to add to our collection as it featured characters so similar to our own pets – the swashbuckling “baddie” the Highway Rat and his obliging horse! Its rhythmic verse, humour and eclectic mix of animal characters make it a book I know will become well-loved in our home, as I’m sure so many other of Julia Donaldson’s will too!

Peepo by Janet & Allan Ahlberg ~

This is a truly timeless book, documenting with such poignancy a day in the life of a baby in the 1940s. One of the things I love most about Peepo is how it somehow mirrors the events of the same even in the modern day – the rhythmic simplicity of playtime, bathtime, bedtime and family values are the same, just with the rich historic backdrop of life in that era.

Little Mole books, written by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Vanessa Cabban ~

This is a lovely little series of books featuring Mole and his woodland friends, with a strong focus on relationships and morals woven into simple and engaging tales. From the classic Bringing Down the Moon to the vibrant autumn colours of The Best Gift of All, they are a warm and appealing collection. I actually came across this blog post by the author when writing this, and see we have one, Diamond in the Snow, still to discover!

These are just a few of our very first picture books and would love to write about more so probably will. There are so many we’re just discovering as well as so many classics – Winnie the Pooh, Old Bear, Spot – who could have a chapter all of their own and who I’m just itching to pass on.

A very happy World Book Day all, hope you are all having a good week. X