Saturday, 9 August 2014

Lego ::

If you've ever met my little boy, or if you follow me over on Instagram, you'll know just how much he completely and utterly adores Lego.  I would go as far as to say it's an obsession.  It started with Duplo, the lighter slightly softer of the two, but it quickly escalated to the 'big boy' variety.  On his third birthday we were still trying to stick to Duplo, I made him a cake which represented his love of this humble brick and he was showered with Duplo gifts.  We did however give him a couple of the minifigure packets that birthday, which he adored.  A few weeks later my Aunt came to visit and provided him with a late birthday present and his very first proper set of 'big boy lego'.  It was very much a downhill slope from there on out and the rate this obsession is going I fear that soon I will lose the battle to keep at least some rooms in my house Lego free.

Milo's excitement about this simple toy soon reignited Johnny's childhood passion and now I have two very large Lego collections to put up with.  Milo's resides at the end of the living room, sorted into drawers and boxes, arranged by colour, with a few shelves for showing off his favourite creations. Johnny's lives at the end of the dining room, is entirely vintage, mostly obtained from car boot sales, ebay, charity and clearance shops and is organised in a much more specific manner by brick type.  He has a whole range of shelving units to show off his almighty collection.  He assures me regularly that theses models will be sold on ebay one day.

Yes I get fed up with Lego all over my living room floor, having to push aside piles and piles of bricks in order to make just enough space on our dining table so we can eat, but it keeps both of them very quiet and happily entertained for hours on end.  The first thing Milo does every morning on waking (after confirming with me it's not to early to get up) is go downstairs and build Lego.  It keeps him completely engrossed until I get up to get him ready for school.  He builds elaborate models from his imagination, usually influenced by whatever film he's seen recently or other things going on in his life.  He built a fabulous version of a Superdry store once, including mannequins, a t-shirt, trousers and accessory sections, complete with till area, and even a stock room (Johnny works for Superdry you see).  After returning from the Tarzan movie a few weeks ago, together we built a wonderful jungle, with a waterfall, camp, treehouse and full of flowers, plants and animals.  The characters from books we're reading often find themselves in minifigure form and I love hearing him reenacting the chapters we read the previous night.

It's so enjoyable watching Milo and Johnny spend weekend after weekend working away together on a big project. I'm always so impressed with how Milo can follow the instruction book with complete ease. He so clearly understands how the models come together and after years of following the instructions he now has a great basic understanding of the structure, to work away on really complicated models from his own imagination in a way that makes me so proud.

I do worry sometimes that he's a little blinkered in his toy choices, the few other toys he has rarely get a look in, though the Duplo still comes out regularly and more recently pens and paper have become popular too, very often used to create his own instruction books for his self imagined Lego sets. However I can see he learns so much from these simple blocks, maths, the ability to follow instructions, creativity, storytelling, fine motor skills and so much more, I can't ever imagine this obsession waining. I expect to have an engineer or an architect or if Milo gets his way, a Lego set creator as a grown up son one day!

Friday, 8 August 2014

34 Weeks ::

Yesterday I had my growth scan and consultant appointment.  The purpose of which was to access how everything was going after problems I had with placental abruption in my last pregnancy.
The scan went really well, she's head down and still definitely a girl.  All the measurements were happily within the average size ranges, she now weighs 5lb 1oz.
The doctors seemed happy with everything, as she's growing on track and the fluid levels seem OK, there's no sign of any placental problems this time around (though to be honest I had a load of scans with Milo and there were never any problems with his growth either).  All of this is great news.  To be honest I never felt any worries or fears during my last pregnancy and even though I was induced a week early with Milo due to bleeding, I felt I had a good labour.
The only issue that occurred during my appointment yesterday was the strong suggestion that I shouldn't really have a home birth.  They are happy for me to be in the birthing suite at Gloucester instead of the delivery suite, however they don't really want me to be in Cheltenham.  Being in Gloucester is exactly what I wanted to avoid.  I feel silly to be upset when the baby seems healthy and well, but I really am devastated that I need to go all the way to Gloucester to have my baby and to be so far away from home, Milo and Johnny (when he's not at the hospital with me).  As we don't drive Gloucester is a long way away for us, not only that it's an expensive cab journey.  I also feel very misled as I was told from the very beginning I would be fine for a home birth as long as everything progressed well, which it has.  I do realise I'm probably massively overreacting and didn't realise it meant so much to me until yesterday, I expect it's just hormones, but I cannot explain how hugely upset I am about it all.

After I wrote this post last night, I actually found myself over at Gloucester hospital.  I had some bleeding and was asked to go in for monitoring.  Everything was fine with the baby, I was monitored and examined and left with no explanation for what the problem was and it's all stopped now.  My suspicions are that I'm heading the same way as last time.  I had 2 bleeds with Milo in the lead up to the big one that resulted in my induction, so it seems unlikely I'll be able to give birth in the birthing centre or at home now.  The hospital was fine and the staff were lovely, but having to travel over there late at night all by myself to a completely alien place when I was already feeling super fragile and over emotional was no fun at all.  Here's hoping all remains calm from now on!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

North Norfolk Holidaying ::

Finally managing to get a little bit of time to catch up on all we've been up to over these past few weeks of the holidays.  Midway through the first week of the summer holidays, Milo and I headed up to Norfolk to visit my family and get a few days of beach time in.  Although the weather was looking pretty lousy it actually turned out beautiful, we managed to visit 5 different beaches, spend a day at a beer festival with my Dad, have picnics with Milo's cousins, watch the Lego Movie (many times) and paint in my Mum's shop, all within the 4 days we were there.  It was much much fun!

On our first day Milo and I rose pretty early excited about visiting the sea.  We decided to do a beach crawl! Starting at my Mum's little village, Weybourne, we got a bus over to Sheringham.  There we visited the beach, walked along the prom, played the 2p machines in the arcade and ate ice cream.  I spent a lot of my teenage years along Sheringham's prom and I love being there so much.  In my opinion though not the best beach along that strip and certainly not the nicest for swimming.

Next up was West Runton, we hoped on another bus and found our way further east along the coastline.  This is a great beach for rock pooling and fossil hunting.  Milo bought himself a net and (entirely inappropriate bucket for crab catching purposes) and we hunted the pools for hours.  We didn't catch much, but we saw lots of fish, crabs, snails and anemone.  Again I'm not sure this is really a great beach for swimming, but in terms of activity it's great and was perfect for the coolish day we were there.  Milo loved hunting for fossils, climbing the cliff side, building sandcastles and of course the aforementioned rock pooling.

Not wanting to stop at one beach too long, we headed back to the bus stop and headed yet further east, along to Cromer.  I love Cromer, proper traditional British seaside town as it is.  There's lots to keep little ones entertained, including the pier, lifeboat museum, arcades and some lovely places for ice cream and lunches, not to mention my Mum's pottery shop.  
We visited Cromer a couple of times during our stay and even saw Mr Bloom of Mr Bloom's Nursery filming in the lifeboat museum, I think Milo was probably less impressed by this than I was mind!

On our second day we went down to Norwich to visit my Dad and attend a beer festival.  Obviously there wasn't a lot of beer drinking for me and Milo stuck to the ginger variety, but we had a lovely day in the baking sunshine, watching rugby.

When we returned to my Mum's house that evening we took a gorgeous walk along her local beach, Weybourne, as the sun was starting to set.  It such a stunning place to be at that time of day.  It's a really pebbly beach, not safe for swimming, but really interesting in terms of cliff formation and a lovely walk along the cliff tops too.

Sunday was meant to be dreadful in terms of weather so we planned a lazy day with Milo's cousins, watching movies, roast dinner and loom band creating.  As it turned out it was actually glorious, the best day in terms of weather that we were there, so instead we headed to our 5th beach of the holiday, East Runton.  Unsurprisingly positioned between, West Runton and Cromer, I think this probably has to be my absolute favourite.  Rock pools, beautiful sandy stretches, lovely and shallow seas, perfect for kids who feel no fear (Milo is definitely one of these!).  The kids had so much fun, building elaborate sandcastles, surrounded by extensive moats and rivers, jumping in the waves and searching the rock pools, you also get a lovely view of Cromer.

Milo adored getting to spend so much time with his cousins and cried so much when it was time to say goodbye.  He hasn't stopped asking me since, why we can't live in Norfolk.  I must admit it was glorious and it's such a beautiful place.  I may be biased but I really do think it's a fabulous UK holiday destination.  The coastline is so diverse and there are many activities to keep everyone entertained.  We didn't even have time to visit my absolute favourite beach (possibly I think in all the world, though of course I haven't visited them all), Holkham.

If I wasn't so pregnant I think I would probably try and fit in another visit before the summer holidays come to an end.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Camp Bestival :: Camping ::

Yesterday we returned from a fabulous four days at the beautiful Lulworth Castle for Camp Bestival. I plan on doing a couple of other posts about some of our very favourite parts of the festival but for today I'll write a little about our camping experience.

We arrived Thursday afternoon, giving us plenty of time to set up camp and attempt a good nights sleep all ready for the main event starting the next day.
As we're non drivers, it was public transport all the way.  The train journey was fairly easy, two changes from Cheltenham to Wool, but everything ran smoothly and once we arrived in Wool there was none of the chaos of arriving at a train station full of festival traffic we were expecting.  We joined another group of 3 and shared a taxi to the site.  The journey was reasonably quick, the cab driver happily stopped at a shop for us and the fare wasn't too bad once it was split.  As we arrived at the taxi drop off rather than the main car park I expect our experience of arrival was probably quite different to others who did come by car.  It was super quiet and easy to get our wristbands sorted, the stewards were all really helpful and happy to give us directions as to where we needed to go.  I found the whole atmosphere strangely relaxed really, compared to other festivals where arrivals seem so hectic and confusing and queues so long.  Relaxed and easy going is really what you need when you've travelled far with children, luggage and are about to test the limits of your relationship with your other half whilst setting up camp.

The entrance from the taxi drop off to the campsite took you through the main arena, which was lovely as although most of it was cordoned off you could a get a good look of the area and where everything would be, thus creating much excitement in the little one.  It was quite a bit of a walk, but as you came onto the campsite directly from the arena, this was great for me, who was keen to camp as close to the entrance as possible.  Cutting down on the amount of walking a 33 week pregnant lady needs to do is always beneficial.  After much deliberation we found what I think was pretty much a perfect spot for us, about halfway between the arena entrance and the closest toilets. We choose a spot on the main thoroughfare, but as it was quite a short strip it was never too busy or noisy.

As we only had a 2 man tent already in our possession (which did us fine last year, but we're all a little bigger this year) we decided to purchase a brand new four man tent.  The only problem was, as is fairly common place for us, we left this until the very last minute, giving us absolutely no time to have a practice run at tent erection.  It took us a while to set up, I won't lie, but mostly we were nice to each other and didn't have any huge arguments about the problems we experienced with the, seemingly impossible, task of getting the tent poles to fit in the pegs.  I did think we probably looked, rightly so, like fairly incompetent, inexperienced campers, especially considering most of the others camped around us seemed to set up huge palaces out of nowhere in half the time it took us to set up our measly two room tent.

We also purchased a couple of self inflating mattresses, after we borrowed some and found them perfect for transporting and using last time we camped.  I took the smallest pillows I could find in our collection, a fleece blanket and sleeping bags for all of us.  Milo decided he wanted to sleep in a room on his own, so I used the towels we took, along with the blanket under his sleeping bag to create a cosyish spot for him to sleep on As a boy who tends to move from bed to floor to sleep every night at home, he seemed perfectly happy with this arrangement.

Like I already said, we are not super experienced or especially organised campers, so for us preparing food and the like was limited to boiled water.  I took pot noodles, cup-a-soups, coffee, along with apples, raisins, biscuits and cereal bars.  This worked for us and to be honest the range and quality of food available across the festival was spectacular and we ended up bringing home all the pot noodles and the cup-a-soups!

I was surprised and pleased to find so much going on, on the Thursday night as I knew the festival didn't officially begin until the next day.  The Soul Park and the Upper Magic Meadow were open and we were free to roam around quite a lot of the site.  There were lots of places to eat and even some boogieing to be done in the Matua Bar.  Milo absolutely adored DJ Dapper Dan the Rock n Roll Town Crier, as did we.

One thing I wasn't all that impressed by were the toilets on the campsite.  I appreciate that festival toilets don't generally have a great reputation and I've definitely seen worse, but as a festival so heavily aimed at families I do think perhaps a little more could have been done to keep them more pleasant.  I only witnessed the toilets near us being cleaned once, they may have been cleaned more than this, but it was such a noticeable improvement when they were that I think I would have noticed had this been the case.  There was almost never any toilet paper in the toilets both on the campsite and throughout the arena and after the first day the hand sanitiser was all gone and not replenished once.  Fortunately we took plenty of toilet rolls and hand sanitiser with us so were generally OK and Milo isn't too squeamish about yucky toilets, so we survived but it could definitely be improved.  The compost loos around the arena I found to be much better and maybe having these on the campsite would be a nice touch. We also found we very rarely had to queue and when we did there was only ever a couple of people in front of us, so it certainly seemed as though enough toilets were provided.

It took us a couple of days to find the showers, so we only used them once the whole weekend, but when we did I was really impressed.  Provided by these guys, we choose to go up mid afternoon, so we barely had to queue at all and found them clean enough.  They were even stewarded by two guys who squeegeed them out after every use.  I was really impressed, the best festival showers I have yet to use.

I was surprised by how loud and how late the music went on until as it's such a family orientated event. Milo was so tired by the time he made it to bed each night it made no difference to him, but I wish I had remembered to get ear plugs for myself as I found myself waking up a lot through the night.  However once the arena closed up for the night the campsite was surprisingly quiet, I expect this was due to there being so many families and not so many drunken antics! It was even fairly quiet until quite late in the morning, I would say most mornings I barely heard any others until around 8am, which was great.

Overall the camping experience was pretty great, the food stands were all open by the time we got up and there was some good coffee to be found pretty close by.  We were really pleased to be as close to the arena as we were, meaning we could nip back to the tent with ease throughout the day and the general atmosphere was pretty nice and friendly.

Packing up on Monday morning was easy enough, we trekked back through the site to the taxi pick up, watching everything be dismantled as we did.  Again the stewards were helpful and friendly, each one saying good morning as we passed.  We got straight in a taxi, no waiting around at all, had a lovely taxi driver take us back to Wool station, where we serendipitously arrived to a reasonably quiet station 10 minutes before the next train to Southampton.  Again we were so surprised at how easy and relaxed transport to and from the site from the train station was, really really unusual in my experience of public transport and festivals.

I'll cover more of actual festival itself throughout this week and next, but I've written much more than I ever intended on the camping alone so I'll leave it there for now!

If you're interested in attending Camp Bestival next year early bird tickets go on sale Friday.