Category Archives: holidays

Summer holidays are over

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I’m not going to lie, the last 46 days have been very hard graft. It’s the first time I’ve gone seven weeks without childcare for the Wee Man since he was six months old – and at least then he didn’t move. Now, he’s on the go from the moment he opens his eyes until the second he reluctantly shuts them – his zest for life is undeniable.

Plus he now has a wee brother who’s nearly three and has his own ideas about how the house and schedule should be run. Thank goodness for private nursery three days a week… I’ve managed to juggle my workload and thank God I’m self-employed. If I had a real job I would certainly have been sacked. All the childcare I thought I had lined up fell through, for a variety of reasons. My own naiveté was the main one, coupled with human error, expense and changes to holiday plans. It was frustrating and stressful. The weather was mostly rubbish, the days often began at 6am and all the driving to adventure parks and beaches resulted in KD napping at all sorts of inappropriate times. The bedtime and sleep routine were, for the most part, f*cked.

Yet here I am, the night before primary two, feeling emotional.

My mum spent the day with us and we had some lovely chats (in between hanging on to a dog and two boys on scooters) discussing my first summer holidays and how hard they are for everyone. I felt reassured and fired up – this afternoon I made a lasagne and filled a load of tupperware with jelly and mandarins ready for the lunchboxes.

summer holidays are over

summer holidays are over

This will never happen again – neither will I ever iron the Wee Man’s uniform (why bother when you can tumble dry it for ten mins) – but I’m pretending to be all #kickassmum and #winningatlife and whatever.

For his part, the Wee Man is so so ready to go back to school. He misses his pals and the structure of his day. I miss my pals too! The social side of the Wee Man’s school is great. The parking is shocking so everyone walks up together, plus the catchment is pretty small so we all live nearby. It’s a cosmopolitan crowd, lots of languages and backgrounds, which I love – the chat in the playground is interesting and I’ve missed it. I need my routine back too.

As for the weather, well, of course today was a scorcher.

Now that the schools are back the sunshine will no doubt beat down til October.

Oh christ – the October Week.

 

The Pramshed
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Mogabout on Arran

I took a deep breath, stilled my mind and rubbed my right thumb and forefinger together as I stepped forward. I paced slowly and deliberately to the end of the cairn, then turned and walked back. Were my fingers sticking? Was there a force emanating from the rock?

No.

Sadly I felt not a thing, despite standing on a ‘ley line’ on a 6000 year old burial ground.

“I didn’t think you would, it’s too rainy,” the guide, Alex, told me.

I smirked, thinking about how else we might ‘feel the energy’.

“I’m not getting naked,” I stated.

The rest of the group laughed. We were standing on the Giants’ Graveyard at the south end of Arran, observing the remaining stones and trying to imagine what the structure used to look like before the land owner commanded the peasants to remove them to construct a wall 200 years previously.

mogabout

“They almost made it to present day,” Alex said, forlornly. His tales of the Highland Clearances had been sobering – 86 locals forcibly removed and shipped to Canada so that sheep could move in, only for the duke to die and his hard-up wife to sell the land to the Forestry Commission.

Interestingly my kids hadn’t hung around. They hadn’t been the slightest bit interested in climbing the stones – had they felt something? Or did they just want to get back to play in the Unimog?

We were spending the afternoon on a forest safari, exploring the island on a 4×4 adapted truck called “Mogabout”, which meant we could go off-road and handle inclines of up to 45 degrees.

Despite holidaying on the island for nearly 30 years, I’d never seen it from this perspective, nor learned the nuggets of information imparted by our horticulturalist/fireman/entrepreneur/ranger guide. Two of the group were from New Jersey and I enjoyed seeing Arran through their eyes. “It’s so wild and beautiful – maybe we should move here and escape Trump,” they said.

mogabout

Just when we thought the boys were getting too restless to carry on, we stopped at the top of a forest track with an uninterrupted view across to Holy Isle and the Ayrshire coast. Alex produced two enormous thermos flasks, one with coffee and one with tea, a carton of milk, a box of biscuits and an huge tub of Swizzles sweets. When we’d finished he even let the boys ride up front.

mogabout

On the way back down the hills, he shared some local folklore, about the boy with an illicit whisky still who went “away with the fairies” and didn’t return for a year and a day, and the locals who’d carry food if they were ever out at night and found themselves near water, so they could make an offering and keep the fairies from causing them harm.

The beautiful and fitting ending to the eye-opening tour was the rain melting away and a perfect rainbow forming over the burial site.

Now that made me feel something.

 

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Mindfulness on Arran

 

 

 

 

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Mindfulness on Arran

I didn’t take my phone with me when we walked to Kings Cross point.

When we reached the bench at the top of the hill I sat down and let Rod and the boys carry on down to the beach.

I’ve been sitting on this bench since I was six years old. I considered this as I gazed out over the bay, across to Lamlash and up to Goatfell. It was so quiet. The only sounds were the insects zipping past my ears or hovering in the gorse behind me. Occasionally I’d hear a seagull down at the shore or the engine of a far off boat.

It was really hot today, I was in a vest top and shorts and could feel the warmth of the sun on my left side. It was almost completely still, only a light breeze made the leaves nod vaguely.

I was completely in the moment, but the worn wooden slats of the bench were hard and rough, so I stood up and followed the grassy path between the ferns to the beach, enjoying the relief of the dappled shade. I heard animals scurrying in the undergrowth and then laughter as I turned a corner to spy Rod and the Wee Man ankle deep in the sea. The tide was in and KD was asleep in his buggy in the shade of a gnarled tree.

I watched them for a moment, smiling, then picked my way across the stones to join them. I realised Rod had a beer in his hand and shook my head. I slipped off my trainers and stepped into the Firth of Clyde. It was catch-your-breath cold so I stayed in the shallows, scanning the sand for hermit crabs. The sea snails had left long tracks behind them and the cockles clung to the smooth stones – I could see every detail because the water was so clear. My eyes suddenly fell upon three bottles of Corona nestled in the rocks, keeping cool.

“You’re nothing if not resourceful,” I called to Rod.

“I’ve got a bottle opener in my pocket,” he called.

“Of course you do, “ I replied, selecting one. He popped it open for me and I took a slug. The rim of the bottle was salty. I stepped out of the water and selected a flat rock on the beach to sit on, listening to the dry popping of the seaweed around me. The tide was going out. The sun beat down and KD slept on.

Two women and four dogs appeared. We knew them, of course. They stripped to their swimsuits and waded in for a swim, shrieking that it never used to be this cold and beckoning their dogs, who sat resolutely on the sand. I listened to their chatter and watched Rod and the Wee Man play football with a rainbow ball and thought, “I’ll remember this moment as clearly as I can, so that when I’m old and lonely, I’ll feel happy.”

 

 

 

 

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What Would the Wee Man Do?

When I found out Edinburgh schools go back on the 10th of January, I was tempted to call the council.

What on earth was I going to do with them? When would I ever get back to work?

When in doubt - balloons

When in doubt – balloons

Rod probably wouldn’t admit it, but he must have been glad to get back to work on the 3rd. No one pulling anyone’s hair, repeating his name over and over and over or undoing everything he did… Actually, he works in the car trade, maybe that’s exactly what he went back to.

Thank God the nursery reopened on the 4th – only the Wee Man to entertain for three out of the six extra days.

Two days in and I’m kind of astonished to realise I’ve loved it.

What? So we're at the park again...

What? So we’re at the park again – what’s your point?

If anyone is struggling to stick to their “Healthy January” resolution, may I suggest hanging out with my son? He makes every minute of the day count – and I love that about him. Some of my friends’ kids are content to watch movies, play with their Christmas presents and generally hang out at home. Not him.

Yesterday, after dropping KD at nursery, we went straight to soft play. We were the first ones there and he whooped with delight. One other family arrived, with two small kids, one of whom introduced herself to the Wee Man and off they went. She was adorable. I played football with them and cheered them coming down the slides. They got on so well that her mum and I swapped numbers and arranged a playdate.

After a couple of hours at home we were off again, to visit Auntie Kaka and play with all her daughter’s toys. Then it was the big one: his first swimming lesson. That half hour in the pool made me so proud I could burst. For once his general lack of fear played in his favour – he was leaping into the water, swimming valiantly as he sank lower and lower and laughing the whole time. I think his instructor fell in love with him a wee bit – I could see she was proud too.

Today we went back to the pool after the nursery drop off and practised. To say he was delighted was an understatement, I actually feel bad for keeping his arm bands on this long. There was an aqua aerobics class going on at the same time and he kept trying to join in, dancing even as he drowned a little bit. There’s a soft play at the gym so I managed a quick coffee as he played, but soon we were off again, home for lunch and a wee bit of telly before donning full waterproofs and heading to the park.

A dot in the distance

A dot in the distance

As he shot off across the field with his football in the sunshine I thought “He’s just a free spirit,” somewhat indulgently. With no KD to slow us down we must have covered the length and breadth of that huge field several times over. He only stopped to hang over the fence and chat to the woman poo-picking in the horses’ field. She’d heard the rumour JK Rowling owned the sprawling stables across the bypass too and we commiserated in our jealousy.

After an hour in the zero degree cold we headed back to the car and popped in to see his great pal and her brother who, in his mother’s words, is “mad on the Wee Man” (rather than mad with him)… His energy was undented. They tore around the house, laughing their heads off, as Allison and I drank tea and discussed whether boys or girls were more of a challenge to parent.

"You be Anna and I'll be Elsa"

“You be Anna and I’ll be Elsa”

In the end the only thing that stopped us was a clamp on the wheel. Yes, they may be saving paper by doing away with tax discs, but they have opened up a whole new cash generator. I had just loaded KD into the car seat and was going back for the Wee Man when I realised the junk mail on the windscreen was in fact a £100 fine.

Drinking through the pain...

Drinking through the pain…

We have a joke in our family. Whenever we’re stressing about something we think of Big B, my so-laid-back-he’s-horizontal brother in law, and say “What Would Brian Do?” I’m thinking of adapting it to “What Would the Wee Man Do”? He is joy personified. It’s exhausting, but when it’s all about him, it’s incredibly uplifting. And fat burning.

So whenever you’re fed up, go ahead and borrow my new catchphrase. At least it will get you through January.

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The 21 hour date

It’s a bit like Stockholm syndrome. You wish for five minutes peace and yet you miss them as soon as they’ve gone.

It took a bit longer this time because I fell asleep three and a half minutes after we’d dropped the boys off at their Auntie’s. I napped all the way from Ayrshire to Perthshire, despite Rod’s questionable music choices, and woke up just as we parked at Gleneagles.

My pang for my children was almost immediately smothered by my raging thirst.

Mummykimmy boozing

It was the beginning of an eight hour session – the pace slightly slower than days of old – but the price considerably higher given our choice of venue.

Mummykimmy cocktail

mummykimmy eating steak

There were cocktails and steaks and a fine bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. There was even a trip to the bar, a place we normally bypass in our sprint to get back for the babysitter. It’s been recently redecorated and we liked everything about the turquoise walls and art deco style, except the bar stools. We did not like the bar stools. They were far too slippy. An attentive bartender came to try to assist us (the bases were very heavy) but seemed puzzled by our assertion that surely they had had many complaints about the bar stools. Neither of us could sit for long without sliding off.

“They’re perhaps designed so that you lean forward and chat to the bartenders,” he helpfully – and diplomatically – suggested.

The next morning, having fallen asleep on each other on the couch and stumbled up to bed around 3, we had a lie in. Nobody yelled “milk!” or elbowed us in sensitive parts or demanded Coco Pops, which made a nice change. Instead we went out for breakfast, read the papers and ate poached eggs, like grown ups.

The highlight of our prolonged date came at 10.45am when we walked into the Best Spa In The World.

Mummykimmy spa

We didn’t come out for three and a half hours. My aromatherapy massage was with a Hungarian called Sonny and I can confidently say it’s the best spa treatment I’ve ever had. The foot massage alone was worth the money. The whole experience was perfect from his soothing low voice to the classical music, heated bed and wonderful aromas from the oils. I felt like he kneaded out all the grumpy and left me feeling renewed. I realise this sounds ridiculous. Rod laughed out loud when I said pretty much those exact words outside in the hot tub as the rain fell on our heads.

Mummykimmy spa ready

We drove back to the kids in stages, stopping off to visit friends and their new baby and then my mum. Of course when we did eventually get to them, they ran straight past me and into their daddy’s arms and the wall of noise smacked us square in the forehead.

They’re in bed now and I’m about to make the lunches, pack the bags and prepare everything for the week ahead – but I’m doing it with a spring in my step.

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Lucky number three

I have somehow become the mother of a three year old.

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I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve been finding things tough and anything I tried to write just came off like a huge moan. Who wants to read that? It wasn’t even anything serious, just a bout of illness, a crazy work schedule for both parents and the trials and tribulations of switching from a cot to a bed.

Now, though, the Terrible Twos are Officially Over.

Every since he turned three on Friday, the wee man has been on sparkling form. He didn’t even scream when I got him dressed this morning (usually an epic battle). We had some wonderful, quality, family time for three days, first with Daddy being off work, then with both sets of grandparents and an auntie visiting from Glasgow for the weekend. He just loved it. He adored having his daddy wind him up, his auntie dance around with him and his grandparents spoil him – and no doubt a relaxed and happy mummy had an effect too.

We spent Friday at Edinburgh zoo – an absolute five star hit for a small child obsessed with animals. My slight trepidation, based on an upsetting experience at Barcelona zoo last year, was quickly allayed by the focus on conservation and the wonderful design of many of the enclosures. The new chimpanzee house was a particular highlight, the wee man pressed his face against the glass, waving and mimicking the noisy chimps – though he did just about sh*t himself when they got rowdy and started banging on the glass. He stood in awe in the bird enclosure as they flew around him and squawked at him from nearby branches and tried to catch one as it hopped by his feet. The penguins were a big hit, especially when they paraded past, and he roared at the tiger and lions, even though they were sleeping and couldn’t care less.

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We met my friend Karrie and her gorgeous wee girl at a local Italian for dinner afterwards – both kids were very well-behaved and totally fascinated with each other. The wee man only thew one thing at her, and it was a cuddly panda he’d chosen for her at the gift shop, so she didn’t really mind.

The rest of the weekend was spent just hanging out with our family and anticipating his birthday party on the Sunday afternoon. We went for an early dinner on the Saturday at a Thai restaurant and a lovely Mother’s Day lunch on Sunday. Both times he sat at the table for more than an hour and a half without protest, playing with his sticker book or colouring-in or watching Toy Story on the iPad. We were very pleasantly surprised by his good behaviour. Was it the fact he was surrounded by parents and grandparents? Was it the fact his mum and dad were more relaxed? Or is he just growing up?…

The party on Sunday was a triumph, even if I do say so myself! We’d arranged to rent the local community centre, a lovely new building with a huge hall and a nice cafe for the birthday tea. We hired a bouncy castle and ball pool, borrowed all the cars, scooters, soft play blocks, slides and climbing frames from the toddler group and just let the kids run free. 15 of them played beautifully, no fights or tantrums, and sat very nicely for the pizza we ordered from across the road and sandwiches we’d bought in M&S. Mum had made a couple of dozen cupcakes and we stuck in the candles and sang Happy Birthday as the wee man blew them out one by one. I didn’t even cry –  I was just so happy that everything had gone according to plan, everyone was having a good time and the wee man was content.

I really think this is a bit of a turning point – even if only in my own head. He’s growing up and becoming more of his own person every day. This morning he woke up, trotted through with some sticklebricks and a huge grin and climbed into bed beside me, giving me a huge cuddle and lying happily in the crook of my arm as he pulled the bricks apart and reassembled them for five minutes. I think it was one of the nicest ways to start my day. I hope we can have lots more moments like this and the battles will become less and less frequent…

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Happy Birthday Boy

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12 ways to survive Tenerife with a toddler (or three)

1 Don’t take plastic toys on the plane

A five hour flight with the wee man was always going to be a challenge for us – even if his cousin (R-Chopz), aunt and uncle were all there too. We packed a huge bag of tricks and rotated them. While R-Chopz, who’s 13 months, was peacefully sleeping, the wee man stood up in his seat, peered at the sleeping woman behind him and launched Thomas the Tank at her head. She woke with a shriek, we apologised profusely, the wee man started wailing, R-Chopz woke up, he started wailing, and we all had a very jolly time.

travel buddies Wee man and R-Chopz

travel buddies Wee man and R-Chopz

2 Accept you will become even more obsessed with sleep

We met the Wee Man’s other cousin (Shrimpy) and other aunt and uncle at the Tenerife resort, in the bar, where they were having a wee beer to help them through a day that had started with a 6am flight from London. Shrimpy (6 months) hadn’t really napped and the disrupted sleep pattern was to continue for all three children throughout the holiday. Only once did we all have breakfast together – someone was always getting an extra hour’s kip. R-Chopz woke at 5am every morning, the Wee Man at least waited til 6. We made a small breakthrough when we all discovered we could wheel the cots into the bathrooms. The wee man’s post-lunch snooze was always two hours, and dovetailed perfectly with the sun hitting our balcony, so I consoled myself with that.

3 Know that Cava at breakfast is acceptable behaviour

See above and remember, if you have paid for an all-inclusive holiday, it is your moral duty to ensure you get value for money.

4 Beware bare bums

It was hot, we were swimming and the floors in the rooms were tiled, so nappy-off-time was easy. Only once did we get caught out, one afternoon while eating chocolate, when Rod bent down to pick up a “truffle”. It wasn’t.

5 If falling off a chair, don’t grab the nearest child for balance

There were six adults and three children, so we’d usually end up pulling tables together and angling them so that we got the sun and the kids didn’t. We’d also usually rotate the drinking rota. Mealtimes were rowdy, messy and occasionally slightly tipsy, so when Rod swung on his chair and nearly tipped into a flower bed his reflex was to grab the nearest thing: R-Chopz in his high chair. If not for Uncle B’s quick thinking, it could all have been very messy indeed.

Mealtime at the zoo...

Mealtime at the zoo…

6 If leaving your toddler unattended (ie with dad) expect the unexpected

The girls and I spent a luxurious afternoon in the spa, having wonderful massages and then lounging by the adults-only pool on love seats overlooking the beach. We had a few glasses of Cava (efficiently clogging our freshly drained lymphatic system) and then, at 5, thought we’d better get back to help with dinner. Helen gasped as she spotted her 6 month old, covered head to toe in Ella’s Kitchen but at least her son wasn’t injured. The wee man was smiling through his wet fringe as Rod applied ice to a cracker of an egg on his forehead. “He didn’t cry – it could have happened to anyone,” Uncle B loyally exclaimed as I cried out and bit back the remonstrations. The wee man really was fine.

What? He's fine...

What? He’s fine…

7 If claiming golf took 6 hours, don’t post pub pics

Fair’s fair, so the boys went off for a morning’s golf. No children were injured in their absence. They strolled into the rooms six and a half hours later, claiming “the back 9 was really slow” and telling a long story about a German couple. Our suspicions were confirmed later that afternoon when a picture of them enjoying beers in the sunshine appeared on Facebook.

Post golf beers

Post golf beers

8 Choose restaurants with sober staff

We stayed in the resort for six nights out of seven, but ventured out once with two sleeping children and one boisterous toddler (the Wee Man) to the local town for tapas. At 9.15, when Rod and I had practically rocked ourselves to sleep and he was finally quiet, we parked him next to his slumbering cousins and eagerly perused the menu. The waiter bounced over and roared “Are you ready to order?” making us all jump over the buggies and pointedly whisper our requests. Perhaps on purpose, or perhaps because of his mate Charlie, he continued to screech at us until we were all holding onto each other laughing. The arrival of the last dish, Andrew’s “green pepper plate”, nearly ended us all.

Green Pepper Plate, sir?

Green Pepper Plate, sir?

9 When ordering a beer, remember the V

We couldn’t understand why Andrew came back from the bar the first night carrying five gin and tonics and what looked like pink lemonade. “I asked for a beer and I got this,” he said. When I asked exactly what he’d said, he answered, “una cereza”. I burst out laughing. “You forgot the V. Cereza means ‘cherry’!”

10 Anticipate holiday milestones

The best day of the holiday contained a hat trick of tricks. First Shrimpy sat all by himself for over a minute. Then R-Chopz took six whole steps towards me. Finally, at night, the Wee Man greeted his Uncle Andrew with a “hiya” – like it was the most normal thing in the world. Finally – another word!

Hanging out with his cousin

Hanging out with his cousin

11 Beware other children

Further to point 2 –  other families are most likely in the same boat. However, if they finally do get their 8 month old to sleep they should really park him somewhere other than the playpark. Otherwise it’s really inevitable that the wee man will joyously run over and squeal hello into the tot’s face. Oops.

12 Make sure everyone gets a date night

We each had the opportunity to have a meal at the “posh” restaurant at the resort, with the other two couples babysitting. It was nice to take the excuse to properly dress up and have a ‘date night’ but in the end, we cut ours short to rejoin the others. We decided we’d rather spend our last night with everyone.

Date night for cousins

The wee ones had a date night too…

The end of a holiday is always rubbish, but particularly so when you’re saying bye to your family, scattering across the UK and not sure of the exact date when you will all meet up again.

One thing’s for sure, we will definitely plan another holiday together – Tenerife was terrific.

Picture 4

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