Living with three-nager

We have a saying in our house. A rather overused one at the moment. It goes ‘ Things they don’t tell you before you become a parent!’

It covers things such as the sheer hell you face when you are ill and you still have a child to entertain for 10 hours, the awkward questions (most recently ‘Mommy why is my willy so big? whilst watching Iggle Piggle and Makka Pakka frolic around the Night Garden) and the fact you end up sleeping most nights with a foot planted on your face.

I definitely wasn’t prepared for the three-nager years. It was like a bolt out of the blue around Finley’s third birthday. My funny, calm, easily pleased baby suddenly became opinionated and fiercely independent.

Finley 3 B

On a highly anticipated, 5 hour car drive away, fairly expensive trip to Peppa Pig World for his birthday, he spent most of the first day telling us he wanted to go home and refusing to wait in any queues, running to the front resulting in me having to profusely apologise ducking through the crowds trying to catch him whilst bashing people with my backpack.

And what is it with this toilet training saga?! It has honestly been the hardest part of parenting for us so far. We have been at it for almost a year now. He teases us sometimes by being totally on point with it for a few weeks and we smugly think to ourselves ‘yes, high five, we nailed this!’ Then we find a poop down the side of the sofa.

Occasionally he will go on full on potty strike. That is tough and definitely calls for a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates after he’s gone to bed.

We had some naked time at the weekend (Finley, not me!) Frankly, my washing machine couldn’t cope with any more pants!  We were playing a bit of rough and tumble and he thought it appropriate to attempt to pee on my face! Is this a boy thing? No one told me this happens!!

Threenager 1.jpg

But, as us Mommy’s are well aware, despite all of the above, we love these mini people with all our hearts and more. Last week he said to me ‘Mommy, I love you more than all the cars in the garage!’

Another thing they don’t tell you… the earth shattering, heart melting moments make all the pee, poop, hair pulling all worth it!

Finley 3 A

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Hello 2018!

So we are 8 days in to the New Year and it’s my first free day! So hoping it’s not too late to focus on New Year goals. We are sill blurring the lines a little here in the Maynes abode between the festive season and January, with the leftover booze, cheese and chocolates still hanging around and being consumed!

Christmas Booze

I don’t make ‘resolutions’ as such, but like to have a little check list of things I would like to achieve in the coming year. By putting them out there I am pretty much committing myself to them! So here goes….!

1. Getting ‘a little bit’ fitter!

I joined Pure Gym last October when Finley started nursery and although I do have to give myself a kick up the bottom to get myself to go when its dark and cold, I quite enjoy myself once I get there! I feel so much better for it too. I can only squeeze in two visits a week at the moment, but I’m already seeing the benefits. Its great being a 24 hour gym, so I can go when Stuart gets home from work or early at the weekends while the boys are still in bed. I am aiming to do a Park Run in the Spring – more on that in the future when I do it!

2. Chess

Stuart is a huge chess fan and being the nice person that I am, I reluctantly agreed to play it with him so he could practice his moves! But I have surprised myself by actually enjoying it and getting quite good! So whilst I don’t think I will be going pro anytime soon, it would be good to play a bit more and get to a fairly good standard.

Chess

3. Books

Not a massive change. My kindle is one of my most valued possessions and I read quite a lot, but I do struggle a little for time now being a Mom. I have to be a little more disciplined with myself on this hobby. My reading time is limited to being on the train going to work, but  I am guilty of just getting my phone out and browsing social media and not really achieving anything! I am currently reading Chris Difford’s autobiography which I am really enjoying. But I do love novels. Recently I have loved reading ‘The Light Between Oceans’ by M L Stedman and ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini. If I could get a book a month read I think that is pretty achievable.

4. House

We have been in our house 3 and a half years now and it’s about 50% ‘done’. It is so difficult when you are working (and throw a newborn / crawling baby / toddler in to the mix also!) I have been accused of being impatient by my husband, which may or may not be true (!) but I would really like to get the place looking like ‘our home.’ I always had a dream of what my family home would look like and I don’t have it yet – hence the impatient element I guess! We are getting there slowly!

5. Blog

My little blog is still little, but it’s been really lovely to have a hobby aside from housework and wiping bums over the last few months! I would really like to go self hosted soon and ‘perfect my craft’ so to speak!

So there it is! 2018 in a nutshell. It will be a big year for Finley with him starting Primary School this September, so after he has had his place confirmed in April we can start preparing him – and me – for that. I became a Parent Governor at his nursery just before Christmas, so I am hoping this gives me a bigger insight as to how the education system works and helps him a little in his journey.

Finley nursery

What’s your New Year goals? Are they going well or are they already broken?!

 

 

 

The ‘What’s in your Christmas stocking?’ tag!

The very lovely Mrs Lighty at All Things Spliced has tagged me in the very festive ‘What’s in your Christmas stocking’ game! Always happy to chat about anything Christmas related! Here goes…!

What_s-In-Your-ChristmasStocking-Tag

1. Who’s behind the gathering of Christmas stocking treats – Mama Christmas or Father Christmas?

Always Mama – Mr M doesn’t have a scooby do what is under the tree!

2. Traditional stocking or giant sack?

Stockings for decoration, a sack for presents. I bought a lovely personalised one for Finley’s first Christmas, so it’s part of every Christmas now and will be for years to come!

3. Christmas stockings for everyone or only those who believe?

We all have a stocking hanging on the fireplace.

4. Cheap as chips or a big festive splurge?

Whatever we can afford! Be it a splurge or a budget!

5. Themed goodies or a pick-a-mix stocking of treasure?

Bit of everything!

6. Real orange or chocolate orange?

Chocolate. Always!

7. Christmas ‘stick to your teeth’ candy or Santa’s ‘special’ healthy snacks?

As above. Not a fan of candy!

8. Chocolate coins or sugared mice?

Easy – coins!

9. Latest trends or traditional wooden puzzles?

Variety is the spice of life!

10. Each item carefully wrapped in authentic looking wrapping paper or Santa just threw it all in?

Wrapped but wouldn’t say carefully!

11. Stockings hung with care by the fireplace or end of the bed?

On the sofa -?! Is that weird?!

12. Who fills the stocking – Mama Christmas or Father Christmas?

Mrs M of course

13. Filled to the brim and overflowing or perfectly neat?

Filled – if you can’t go crazy at Christmas when can you?!

14. What do you leave Santa – a glass of milk or something stronger for the road?

Santa needs fueling – a nice glass of fizz and a mince pie.

Share your favourite Christmas tip of all time…

Don’t buy your child too many toys – other people buy so much for them and they just get swamped. Buy a few nice treats and use the cash for nice family festive days out instead. Works while Finley is this age anyway!

Thanks for the tag Nicola!

I nominate the lovely Danni at Mumof3boys!

Finleys first xmas

Finley’s first Christmas – practising his superhero pose!

Christmas Traditions

What makes Christmas so special?! I think it’s the little things. The things you do without noticing but then over the years those little things become the big things and those are the moments and experiences you seem to laugh about and remember the most. I know my memories of Christmas when I was a kid was the drive up to Birmingham from the Forest Of Dean (where we lived at the time), seeing all of my Auntie’s and Cousin’s and my Nan, going to Mass on Christmas Eve, the jingle of bells as I was trying desperately to get to sleep closing your eyes tightly shut and the cramming round a table for Christmas dinner in a tiny terraced house. I always loved getting selection boxes (not so odd if you know me well!) I remember one had a mixed tape of Christmas songs which I thought was amazing. I remember vividly playing it in my Dad’s car. For some reason, I thought owning a tape was very cool. I must have been quite young at the time!

When Finley arrived, I was very keen to start our own little family traditions for him to remember when he gets older. Who knows, he might keep some to continue with his children one day!

1. The Santa Visit

I am a planner and usually end up booking this pretty early when companies start releasing slots late in the summer. To be honest, we don’t spend a huge amount on physical toys on Finley. He gets so much from other people and at the moment he just spends most of his time running round the house and playing his musical instruments, so the Santa visit is something that we splash out on a little, sometimes even doing a couple (I get carried away!) We’ve done Black Country Museum, Severn Valley Railway and CBeebies Land. We are having breakfast with Santa next weekend at a local pub. We make a quite a day of itvand luckily Finley loves Santa so, so far so good! It’s always a really nice day out.

2. Bacon rolls for breakfast on Christmas Eve

Don’t ask me why, but every year on Christmas Eve we have bacon baps for breakfast. I think it feels like such a treat being a grabbing a quick bowl of cereal rushing to get to work and nursery kind of family! Plus it sets us up for a hectic day!

3. The Christmas Eve Box

We are very lucky that my Mom does a Christmas Eve box for Finley (and includes stuff for us too!) We usually have some chocolates, Christmas pyjamas, Christmas slippers, a Christmas activity book, something alcoholic for us and hot chocolate for Finley. There are some gorgeous ones on the market now, but you can always just do a simple one.

4. The Christmas Eve Buffet

I can’t lie. I actually love buffets. Cheese, chutney, meats. What’s not to love?! We have one Christmas Eve afternoon for close family. I love planning it, shopping for it and yes, I love eating it too.

5. Doing Christmas Day your own way

It’s difficult on Christmas Day to see everyone you want to in the space of 12 hours. We had a few Christmases before Finley where we would visit family and drive round which was lovely to be able to get to everyone but it felt like a bit of a whirlwind. We decided last year to be a little bit selfish and just stay at home the three of us. We wanted Finley to remember opening his presents at his own house, playing with them, having Christmas lunch, watching films and generally not doing very much. So that’s what we do. Just eat, play games, watch TV and of course no one is the designated driver for the day (it was always me!) so we can both have a little Christmas drink!

What do your family Christmases look like? I’m always after ideas to ‘borrow!’ Would love to hear about them!

Santa Sleepover at Cbeebies Land Hotel.

What better way to start the festive season than with a visit to see the big jolly man himself! This year we decided to go and see him while he stopped by at the Cbeebies Land Hotel. We had visited the CBeebies Land theme park back in the Spring and absolutely loved it. We were really eager to go to the hotel when it opened!

We booked the Santa Sleepover package, which included entry to the CBeebies theme park, entry to the Alton Towers waterpark, breakfast and dinner and entry to see Jack and the Beanstalk.

When you arrive at hotel – which has such a fun and colourful entrance – it made me happy and smiley so I can only imagine how a toddler might feel! You are greeted instantly by staff who are really helpful and friendly. We all like to feel a little bit special when we go on a trip and the staff here really did that.

Cbeebies Hotel entrance

As we had left early, we decided to head to the Windmill Restaurant for breakfast. There was a huge selection of fruit, cereals, smoothies, yoghurts and a hot selection of sausages, tomatoes, eggs, bacon and toast. There is cutlery for toddlers (in the CBeebies colours!) and the plates are CBeebies themed. The quality was really good – as far as buffet breakfasts go!

After breakfast, we headed next door to the conference centre to see Jack and the Beanstalk. This was really funny. Lots of jokes for kids and quite a few for the parents too! The ‘ Partridge in a Pear Tree’ song by the pantomime baddy and his sidekick was hilarious! Finley sat memorised through the hour long performance which was amazing!

We then got the shuttle bus to the CBeebies park. There was a bit of a wait for this which wasn’t ideal getting a toddler to stand still in the cold. However, we did eventually get there! Being November, the park was quiet so it was very nice not having to queue! We were able to go on rides 3 – 4 times which Finley loved. His favourite was the Octonauts rides, closely followed by Justin’s House – although I think Daddy may have enjoyed this more than Finley!

The Little Explorers Lunchbox cafe serves hot and cold sandwiches, baked potatoes and offers free Heinz baby food which is great. Unfortunately for us, Finley is a lover of chips and as they are promoting healthy eating they aren’t served here. They do have a nicely stocked salad bar which we opted for for him. Me and Stuart just had hot chocolate which was very nice.

Then to see Santa! Everyone had an allocated time slot, so no queueing in the cold. When we arrived at the grotto, a very happy and friendly elf greeted us and took Finley by the hand leading him through a beautiful tree lined path lit with fairy lights. We came to a lodge and knocked the door. A big ‘HoHoHo!’ and we opened the door to a gorgeous, jolly, fat, white bearded Santa! He was just lovely, He chatted to Finley for a good 5 minutes. It was very un-rushed, which I have felt a little sometimes with other Santa visits I have been on. Finley could then pick a toy from the workshop. He decided to pick an Elf (which he has named Finley!)

CBeebies Santa

After saying goodbye to Santa, we headed back to the hotel. There is entertainment on all day, including meet and greets with all the main CBeebies characters, gameshows like Swashbuckle that you can play along to, kids discos and musical instruments to play along to. There is a bar area facing the entertainment area, so parents can sit and have a drink while the little one’s are being entertained. It was great. The character costumes are really authentic. Finley absolutley loves meeting characters like this so this was a real treat for him.

The themed rooms are brilliant. We stayed in the Bugbies themed room (you can also stay in a Something Special themed room, Postman Pat, Octonauts, plus many more.) There is a bunkbed that sleeps up to 3 children with a television opposite, a bathroom stocked with kids toiletries and a toddler insert on the toilet and a double bed also with a television. Complimentary tea and coffee and cookies are also available.

Cbeebies hotel room

We weren’t hugely impressed with the dinner options. I chose the fish pie which was tiny  and Stuart had the braised beef which looked a little unappetising. Finley had the sausages (which he has also had breakfast!) but there was nothing else on the menu that he would have liked. Again the lack of beige freezer food with chips was a bit challenging for us! Finley is very much a chicken nuggets kind of kid! They did have a selection of cocktails though which pleased me greatly!

There was entertainment and a Christmas disco on in the evening including another visit from Santa but we were all really tired by this point so decided to call it a day.

On the second day we visited with Alton Towers waterpark. The changing rooms would have benefitted from a few more family changing rooms. We had to squeeze into a double as there was no bigger rooms available. But other than that, the waterpark is really great. There is loads to do, toddler areas and an area to climb up with a mini assault course towards the top.

The CBeebies Santa Sleepover is a little on the pricey side – our package was £250 which is more than we usually spend to see Santa! However, I think it’s really good value for what is included. Apart from the evening meal which was a little poor, everything else was fantastic. And the main thing of course is that Finley absolutely loved it! The look on his face meeting his favourite CBeebies characters and when we went into our hotel room is something I will never forget.

Cbeebies Iggle Piggle

We have already said we want to do it again next year – we better start saving!

More information on the CBeebies hotel and CBeebies Land can be found at their website – www.cbeebiesland.com

 

Living with a serial m-hobbyist*

*That’s either really funny or a bit shit. You decide!

Does your other half disappear for hours on end? Does money suddenly vanish from bank accounts without warning? Do they become animated and excitable all of a sudden when you ask if they’ve had a good day?

Well, just like me, you could be sharing your life with a hobby junky.

One of the first things that I noticed about Mr M was his passion for what he did. He turned up at my place of work one day responding to a job vacancy for a Graphic Designer and, luckily for him (!) I sat in on his interview. He presented his portfolio of artwork to us and the way he spoke about his work pretty much captivated me from the first moment I met him. His passion for what he did was something that didn’t leave me from that day onwards.

Fast forward a few months. We are now an item and I’m now learning by proxy about photography. He mentions a lense he really wants. Eager to impress I considered buying it for him. A quick google search put pay to that idea… it was almost £400! £400!! for a bit of glass?!

When that phase passed (thank goodness I didn’t buy the lense) it was bikes. We visit The Bike Show at the NEC and he lusts over pedals, saddles, different types of frames, different colours of bikes and he decides that he has to have one. The hunt begins. We drive to a bike shop in Sheffield (apparently they don’t have them within an hour drive of Birmingham) and spend the day there. He sits, he lifts, he tries helmets on for size.

5 years on he’s still trying to decide what bike he really wants.

Stu cycling

The most recent hobby is fishing. He comes in to the living room one day, shuffling and loitering (a sure sign he’s either after something or he’s done something wrong)

‘I’m going to the fishing shop this weekend. I think I’m going to spend big’

‘OK’

‘I need a new fishing box’

‘Cool’ I say, thinking a box would be what – £30?

‘It’s £500’

£500?? For a box?! What does this box do? Does it catch the fish for you? Is it edged in gold?!

We had a similar conversation when he wanted to buy a running jacket during the trail running phase. This jacket is akin to a balero and has 2 plastic squidgey type bottles in the front. These things cost £150!! It’s tiny!

Stu running 3

Last Christmas he had a fleeting affair with chess, which I admit I quite enjoyed as it usually involved a side buffet of cheese and wine. Sadly for Mr M, I’m not the best player and he usually had to explain the rules every game and remind me what each of the pieces are. Safe to say, he hasn’t asked me to play in a  while!

He has also had an ongoing love affair with a girl called Lilyanna, a card as part of the game ‘Magic The Gathering.’ This hobby is accompanied by the postman delivering mountains of envelopes each day with cards bought from Ebay and other sellers. Do I understand the rules? No, despite his many attempts to explain them to me and entice me in to playing. I know he has hundreds of these shiny cards in boxes and folders in his office and occasionally disappears for weekends when a new set comes out and they use it as an excuse to play all weekend in the local geek shop. If you win you get a new playing mat! It’s very exciting when that happens!

Magic Photo

There have been many more….camping, hiking in the snow (snow walking boots also cost the price of a holiday), rock climbing, reading…the list goes on. When Mr M gets in to a hobby he gets in to it big time. He buys all the gear and spends hours watching videos, reading books, joining clubs. It takes over the the house!

Annoying, he is one of those people who picks things up incredibly quickly, so while I am trying to get my head around the basics of hobby 1 (and getting a bit lost!) he’s moved on to the next one.

So what are the benefits of having a husband who jumps from one hobby to another? Well I become a partial expert in all kinds of subjects. I am currently learning through the occasional eavesdropping of a You Tube video about F1 fish, about the waggler fishing technique, expanding pellets – see Stu I do listen!

I have always been a person who has enjoyed my own space and company, so being married to someone who is of the same mindset is something that works for us both. I’ve often had the ‘another weekend away?’ comment. But for us, it works. And it works really well.

I guess that leads to my final point on this – if Mr M is happy, I am happy and I know he feels exactly the same way.

Mr M.. in case you didn’t know. I totally adore you. Just the way you are!

Gail and Stu 2

 

 

Nick and Emily Photography 

I love taking photos. Especially now Finley is around. It’s so nice to be able to document each stage of our life and be able to look back on the snaps you’ve taken. If you’re family is anything like mine however, most photos are of your toddler, Daddy and toddler and then the occasional selfie of you and your child, with you having a double chin/ looking off camera/ being mounted by toddler (delete where appropriate!)

It is a real treat to be able to get someone else behind the lense to be able to get photos of you as a complete family unit. When I came across Nick and Emily Photography, based in the beautiful village of Belbroughton, I couldn’t resist booking a shoot with them.

Family Shot

Primarily for us the appeal was the fact that the family shoot is outdoors. We are pretty outdoorsy people so I hoped it would really capture this side of us. The gallery of images were beautiful and I really liked their style.

You could very easily pick a time and date from their website too, meaning you could see a range of slots available that would suit you.

Nick is such a warm character which instantly relaxes you. He was fantastic with Finley, who was totally comfortable straight away posing for photographs (Nick- believe me this is compliment!)

The area of Belbroughton is beautiful. Nick and Emily are fortunate enough to live beside a gorgeous woodland area which is where the photo shoot took place.

Familt shot sitting

We didn’t have to wait too long either to view our photos either which was another bonus. Nick and Emily came to our home just over a week after our shoot, which let’s face it is a brilliant bonus when you have kids. Sitting in photo studios while Mommy can’t decide which photos to choose isn’t most toddlers idea of a good time!

I was absolutely thrilled to bits with our photos. They totally capture ‘us’. There was a mixture of posed shots and then a few where we were just doing funny things we so as a family (Finley’s group hug!) so to have these captured was just brilliant.

GROUP HUG.jpg

We decided to sign up for the family package. This means that we can have a photoshoot once a year, including all digital files and a discount from purchases of prints through the Nick and Emily shop. They will also edit any of your holiday snaps. I loved this idea. Will be so nice to see our family grow and change without having to find hundreds of pounds on the spot for a few images and having to decide which ones you like best – you just get them all. 

Nick and Emily – thank you! So looking forward to working with you again over the years!

A family photo shoot starts from £40. For more details visit http://www.nickandemily.co.uk