Last Friday was Esther’s second birthday. As it was only two weeks after Tabitha’s birthday, she had some understanding of it and was very excited!
In the morning she had a wonderful time opening her cards and presents.
I’m not sure who was the most excited about the play kitchen!
We collected Nanny and then drove to Watermouth Castle, where we met Auntie Hannah, Auntie Jennifer and Auntie Kirsty. Esther had a wonderful day with her five cousins.
I can’t believe it’s been two whole years since “Bumpy” arrived. Esther is absolutely adored by all of us and therefore in danger of being rather spoiled. She is stubborn, affectionate and hilarious! She seems to have grown up a lot recently.
She can almost recite numbers up to ten, but usually misses out “one” and “eight”. She can recognise and name the numerals 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. I didn’t have a clue she could do this until one day she pointed at the digital clock on my phone screen and started reading out the digits! She can instantly recognise groups of two objects and often shouts out things like “two dogs” or “two bikes” while we are out walking. She can also count larger groups of up to six or seven objects but sometimes loses track.
She can recognise and name the following shapes: circle, square, triangle, star and heart. She is pretty reliable at identifying the colours red, blue, yellow, green, purple and pink. She knows loads of different animals and has a wide repertoire of songs that are recognisable, even if the words aren’t very clear. She never wants to go in the pushchair anymore so she walks everywhere, which can be very slow!
She isn’t very tall and has several one year old friends who are almost the same height as her. She has ringlets at the bottom of her hair which are beautiful when freshly washed, but get tangled and matted while she sleeps. Speaking of sleep, she has only slept through the night about five times in her entire life! The day after her birthday we moved her cot into Tabitha’s bedroom (at Tabitha’s request) so we’ll see how that goes. So far she is sleeping better during the night but it’s harder to get her off to sleep at bedtime. She has been potty trained for a couple of months now and is also dry at night.
Life with a toddler can be exhausting and very frustrating at times, but Esther is an amazing little person who is so much fun to be around!
Tabitha’s birthday fell on Good Friday this year. She had been counting down the weeks and days for ages.
Her present from us was an art set, which was Aaron’s idea.
She was also thrilled with her enormous helium-filled balloon!
In the afternoon she had five friends over for a party, complete with party games, party food and party bags, just as she wanted.
She had a lemon drizzle cake again, same as every year, as it is the only kind of cake she likes. This was actually the second attempt as Esther destroyed the first! I left it cooling on the kitchen side while I went shopping and came back to discover that she had climbed up and eaten most of the top! So I stayed up until midnight baking another.
Granny and Grandad came to visit in the evening and gave her a lovely book about how to draw animals. The celebrations continued on Saturday as we went for an Easter egg hunt at Auntie Jennifer’s house with all the cousins, and Tabitha opened some more presents. Hope you’ve had a wonderful birthday sweet girlie, you have no idea how special you are!
Apologies for the long post and many photos. This is what happens when I don’t post for over a month! I find myself using Instagram to post snippets of our days instead of blogging.
We’ve been making an effort to go along to the local home-ed group’s events whenever they are accessible by public transport. So far we’ve met at the swimming pool, an adventure park and Ilfracombe Museum. The museum was really interesting, especially the nature section, but Esther was in a terrible mood that day! Afterwards we had a picnic lunch on the beach. However, we didn’t stay long as it was freezing cold.
We’ve had some nice family days out at the weekends too, including a visit to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. It had lots of hands-on exhibits which the children really enjoyed.
We have been using The Good and The Beautiful’s language arts curriculum for some of our English work this term. Tabitha enjoys it as there is a wide variety of activities in the lessons. This video was taken back in early January and her reading has improved so much since then! She is now steaming through the Biff, Chip and Kipper books. Aaron is less sure about TGTB. His reading and spelling is quite advanced but we need to work on his grammar. He likes the art appreciation which is included in some lessons, but he finds some of the exercises very tedious. I’m not sure whether or not we’ll continue to use it long-term.
Aaron has started reading these “Murderous Maths” books and finds them very amusing! I’ve been setting him a chapter or part of a chapter at a time, and then getting him to do relevant worksheets from www.worksheetfun.com.
We’ve also been playing some maths games recently to convince Tabitha that times tables are not as scary as she thinks. This gave me an idea and we’ve invited one of Aaron’s friends to join us for one afternoon each week to do some maths games and hands-on activities, starting after half term.
We’ve had lots of playdates with the girl next door. She and Tabitha get on really well. It’s so easy for them to just knock on each other’s doors and ask if now is a convenient time to play. Aaron gets a bit jealous sometimes but hopefully having his own friend round on a more regular basis will help!
I had a nasty virus towards the end of January, so we had a few pyjama days and a week of not doing very much. Aaron and Tabitha were both really helpful and offered to look after Esther in the morning so that I could go back to bed for a little while.
These two photos make me chuckle. In the second I unintentionally captured Tabitha stopping to pray and Esther picking her nose!
She really does love her babies. And other people’s babies too!
She has been interested in matching recently. Tabitha and I made her these cards to match with her wooden Holztiger animals. Another time she lined up all the Grimms semicircles and started colour matching with the little wooden peg people.
I recently took Esther to her first ever toddler group at the library. She has plenty of siblings, cousins and friends, so I’ve never felt the need to “socialise” her. But I thought it might be fun and Aaron and Tabitha could look at books or play on the computers while we were there. She did enjoy it (especially singing Hokey Cokey at the end) but wasn’t very interested in the stories (even though she loves books at home) and kept wandering off.
This was Aaron reading her a story (with all the voices and sound effects!) at my parents’ house a few weeks ago. Tabitha can now read to her as well, which is lovely.
Aaron and Tabitha have recently started group swimming lessons. Tabitha started in a lower level but is moving up to Aaron’s class next week. Their instructor is the same one they had for private lessons, which is nice. However, Aaron has been rather unimpressed by the behaviour of the other boys in his group!
Tabitha is very excited about taking part in a ballet show later in the year. She has been hoping that they would put on another show ever since she started three years ago! She would quite like to try another kind of dance as well (modern or tap) but those classes clash with swimming at the moment. We have so many weekly activities now that there isn’t much wiggle room!
At the beginning of the month, Esther decided that it was time to start potty training. She got the hang of it really quickly with hardly any accidents. After five days she was reliable enough to do long car journeys and days out. She has had a bit of a blip this week with several accidents, but she’s also got over her fear of using the toilet so it’s going pretty well on the whole.
This week has been half term and it has been so nice to spend more time with Colin. Saturday was pouring with rain so we went to the National Marine Aquarium. Esther shouted “fish” or “shark” whenever we saw one and she soon learnt “ray” too. Then she saw the turtle and she loved it so much that it rather spoilt the rest of the aquarium for her! She kept saying “no turtle, more turtle!”. We bought her some turtle bath toys to bring home.
On Monday we woke up to sunshine and decided to go out for a walk. However, it soon turned into rain and we headed towards Mole Valley Farmers instead. On the way it began to snow quite heavily and the carpark was white when we arrived! After a mooch around Mole Valley, we drove up onto Exmoor in search of snow. There wasn’t much to be found, but we did have a lovely walk and saw a hydro power plant with an Archimedes screw and a beautiful rainbow. Colin also spotted his biological father and grandmother, which was the first time he has seen them since he was ten. We found it rather ironic that his grandmother smiled and made a nice comment to the children as we walked past, but had no clue that they were her own great-grandchildren!
I had a gallbladder attack (the first in a long time) during Monday night so on Tuesday Colin took all the children out for the day with his sisters and their children. Wednesday was spent with a lady from church and her visiting grandson. He’s quite a bit younger than Aaron and Tabitha but they get on well.
Friday was a beautiful sunny day. Aaron and Tabitha had been at a sleepover and swimming in the morning, but when they got home we drove to Westward Ho! to meet up with Colin’s sister and her children on the beach. I’ve barely used my camera recently (camera phones are so convenient but the quality is always disappointing) so I made a special effort to take it. We had a lovely time playing in the stream and building sandcastles and dams.
The tide was coming in, so the adults and older children decided to build mounds and see whose would be washed away first. I was standing well back (I was using my telephoto lens) with the two toddlers. I had already moved our bags and belongings back several times to what I considered a safe distance. A small wave came in and surrounded the mounds. Tabitha was the first to run as she didn’t want to get her shoes wet, and Aaron followed soon after. At that point it still seemed like a normal wave, but a second or two after these photos were taken we all realised that it wasn’t.
The water just kept coming and coming! I picked up Esther, grabbed hold of my niece and ran. At some point she was washed off her feet and I fell with her. For a few horrible seconds I couldn’t get up or lift her out of the water. Thankfully her mum caught up and took her so that I could get up with Esther. Once the two toddlers were safely on the slipway I looked round to see Colin trying to catch the rucksacks and shoes which had floated off!
We have since looked at my photos for reference and measured the distance on Google maps. As far as we can tell, that single wave covered about 400 ft of the beach! None of us had ever experienced anything like it before. I’m thankful that we all made it out safely and that we were even able to recover all of our belongings (although I kept telling Aaron and Tabitha that people are far more important than things!). My camera was around my neck and got completely wet when I fell, so it will be recuperating in a tub of rice for a while.
Back to reality on Monday! We’ve got lots of exciting things planned over the next few weeks but I’m a little concerned we may end up being too busy!
I’m not quite sure how it happened but my biggest baby turned 10 on Saturday!
He had some lovely gifts from friends and family including a thesaurus, some French cheese, a shark encylopedia and some enamel sealife plates! Mostly he asked for money, as he has been saving up for a Nintendo Switch.
We didn’t go out anywhere special. We discussed it a lot in the week before his birthday and couldn’t settle on anything. So we stayed home, ate popcorn and played our first family game of Cluedo instead. We also had visitors popping in throughout the day.
One of Aaron’s favourite foods is curry, so in the evening we got a takeaway.
Happy 10th birthday Aaron! I am very proud of the lovely young man you are growing into.
Hanging the last ornament on our Jesse tree on Christmas morning.
This year Aaron and Tabitha both bought gifts for each other and for Esther with their own money. They chose really well and it was so sweet watching them open their gifts!
This year we invited Colin’s parents for Christmas dinner and Colin did nearly all the cooking. It was delicious but there was far too much food! We both vowed to keep it simple next year so that we can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with the children.
We spent Boxing Day at my parents’ house with my brother, sister-in-law and Granny. Sadly Colin was feeling ill so he stayed at home.
Tabitha and Esther were given these beautiful dresses with matching handbags by their Nanny.
Between Boxing Day and New Year we went to stay with Colin’s aunt, uncle and two cousins (not to mention the two dogs, five cats and flock of chickens) at their new home in the New Forest. The journey there took a ridiculously long time due to the traffic, but we saw snow which was exciting! One of Colin’s sisters and her two children also came, so it was quite a houseful. Esther loved all the animals and helped to collect the eggs. She slept really well through sheer exhaustion! I am hoping she will keep it up back at home but somehow I doubt it.
I’ve become really bad at blogging regularly. I think it’s partly because it’s so much quicker and easier to post snippets of our days on Instagram, and then it seems silly to repeat it here. Also, I’ve got out of the habit of keeping my camera handy and tend to mostly use my phone camera instead. It’s more convenient as it fits in a pocket and I usually have it with me, but of course the quality isn’t as good and a lot of the photos turn out blurry! My main reason for blogging has always been to preserve memories, so I’d like to get back into the habit of posting more regularly.
We’ve been making an effort to include more exercise in our week. Living in a maisonette with no garden and no soundproofing for our downstairs neighbour means that we can’t exercise at home, but we’re fortunate to have a big park just down the road. Aaron, Tabitha and I have fun using the exercise equipment at the park, pushing ourselves a bit more each time. Then Aaron and Tabitha run laps around the outside of the playground, trying to beat their personal best. We do some aerobic exercises and then finish off with some stretches, which Esther does her best to copy, before heading into the playground for a while.
Not having the car means we have to walk everywhere, which is a great way of getting some nature study in. It’s getting a bit too cold for butterflies now, but we saw loads on our nature walks in September. We didn’t know what this first one was so looked it up when we got home and discovered it is a comma.
Lately our nature walks have been focused around leaves and seeds. Esther loves both and can now say “conker” very clearly!
Aaron spotted a kingfisher a few moments before this photo was taken!
A microscope has been on my wishlist for ages, and I finally got round to purchasing one. I spent a long time debating whether to purchase a stereo microscope (light source from above means that it can be used to look at 3D objects), a compound microscope (light source from below means that it can be used to look at thin slices on glass slides) or a duo scope (two light sources so it can do a bit of both). In the end I went with this Brunel DM6 stereomicroscope for now, with the plan of buying a compound microscope later. These photos were just taken with my phone but we may eventually get a proper camera device. I did a lot of microscopy at university so microscopes are something I get excited about!
Aaron bought a triop kit while we were in France. We used the microscope to examine the detritus containing the triop eggs and were able to identify water flea eggs (the light brown semicircles with two dark dots). We did see initially see some tiny creatures in the water, but unfortunately they disappeared after a few days. We’ve still got half of the detritus left so we can have another go and hopefully get some triops this time.
I’m so glad I bought these Playmags when they were on offer back in the summer! I had been tracking them on camelcamelcamel so was able to grab a quick bargain, and I’d like to get another set if the price ever drops again. I was worried that Aaron might be a bit too old for them but all three children have played with them loads. If I had to get rid of all but a very few toys, these would definitely be on my keep list.
Tabitha’s aunt and uncle took her horse riding for a very special treat!
One of the cousins celebrated his 3rd birthday at the end of September and Auntie Jennifer threw a fantastic party with lots of fun games!
Tabitha caught the knitting bug again. She spent days working very busily on a scarf which she is planning to give to one of our neighbours for Christmas.
We came across this Crayola Easy Animation Studio and Aaron was really keen to try it. There is a colouring book to design and scan your own skins and backgrounds. Then you can pose the mannequin to create animated videos. It’s faster and easier than stop motion animation because you don’t have to take lots of photos or move the object in small increments. He has made some great karate videos! Sadly our home ed karate class has come to an end after two and a half years, but for now Aaron is continuing to attend the normal evening class.
Esther is very much into trains at the moment. She can build a track by herself (although the two ends don’t join) and gets upset when her “choo choo” runs out of battery.
I’ve been intending to write a proper post about our curriculum and resources for this term, but it has been sitting in the drafts folder for weeks. Our days always start with Bible reading.
Our main English resource this term is How to Write a Paragraph. I read a review by Angelic Scalliwags back in the summer and thought we’d give it a try. We haven’t really done any formal writing before and I was expecting it to be a bit of a battle, but actually both Aaron and Tabitha are rather enjoying it! It’s a 12 week course which builds up skills very gradually. In some ways it’s rather easy for Aaron, so he tends to be a little silly with his answers, but it still manages to keep his interest as many of the concepts are new to him.
Tabitha still insists that she can’t read, but recently she’s reading a lot more words that she sees in her everyday environment. I got out our old pink series Montessori work to boost her confidence a bit, which she really enjoyed.
Some hands-on maths with Tabitha to check her understanding of certain concepts.
Esther is at quite a tricky age to keep occupied while we are doing our schoolwork. She wants to see what we are doing (preferably from the viewpoint of my lap!) but also likes to wriggle, destroy things and climb all over the table! I’ve been making some activity trays to try and keep her busy, with varied success.
This week we went to a seminar for Christian home educators about fossils, dinosaurs and the flood. We could only stay for two of the three sessions as we had to get back for Tabitha’s ballet class. Aaron found it particularly interesting. He said afterwards “I always knew evolution wasn’t true, but today I saw the evidence!” He bought a cast of a fossilised baby Coelophysis footprint as a reminder of how easily all the animals could have fitted on Noah’s ark. (Sidenote: yes, I believe in a literal 6 day creation, a young earth and a global flood. I also have a degree in bioscience so I like to think I’m not a complete crackpot. No, I’m not teaching my children fairy tales. I want them to question everything and be able to back up their opinions with science.)
Today we played in the park on our way to a friend’s birthday lunch. I made an effort to take my camera with me for once!
When we got home, a parcel was waiting for Aaron and Tabitha. A few days ago I came across Happy Little Explorers on Facebook and Etsy. Sophie is a home educating mum who puts together amazing boxes of items to inspire children’s curiosity. I asked her for a box of natural items that we could look at under our microscope. The children were thrilled to open their parcel and unpack the contents!
The next morning was lovely and sunny, so we made the most of it by having breakfast in the garden.
Then we set off for a nice long walk around the country lanes and tracks nearby.
It was suggested that this pony looked rather like Tabitha with its wild mane!
Esther ate a balanced lunch of cherry tomatoes (the gite owners gave us two huge bowls of homegrown tomatoes) and leftover birthday cake!
Then we had a lazy afternoon playing and reading books, with a bit of packing and tidying in between.
In the evening we went out for a meal in La Haye-du-Puits. Again, there was an open fire to cook your steaks in front of you. The food was delicious but the service was rather slow, and Esther got very tired towards the end.
We got up early the next day to pack the car and ensure the gite was clean. Then we headed to Cherbourg, via La Haye-du-Puits for breakfast and a large Intermarche at Valognes to pick up a few things to bring back. The crossing was rougher this time and I was very glad I had given the children travel sickness meds. The car journey back home was awful, as we hit lots of traffic queues and Esther was miserable. She was really happy when we finally got home and danced a little jig around the front room! My wonderful in-laws (who had been looking after the guinea pigs) had left a pile of birthday cards, cakes and presents on the table for me, which was a lovely surprise.
Day 6 of our holiday was also my birthday. Tabitha gave me a card which she had made several months ago and a beautiful scarf she had bought at the street market in Barneville-Carteret, with the help of Uncle James and Auntie Jess. She is such a sweetie! Here is Esther modelling the scarf.
My parents had booked a meal for all of us at a lovely little restaurant called Auberge de l’Ouve, tucked away in the countryside by a river. We arrived early so that we could go for a walk before lunch. Aaron and Tabitha were very excited to spot some boar in the forest!
The meal was delicious. Some things, like Colin’s enormous prawns for his starter and the lamb and beef steaks were roasted over an open fire at one end of the room. Aaron had duck for his main course which was absolutely amazing and made everyone else a teeny bit jealous! My dessert came with a candle on it and everyone sang happy birthday.
We had hoped to go kayaking on the river afterwards, but were informed that the weather was not good enough. After an unsuccessful search for other similar activities, we ended up at Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, where there was a playground and a 12-15th century chateau. Aaron was in his element here, explaining various features of the castle to Grandpa.
We had a lazy evening back at the gite.
None of us were very hungry after such a big meal at lunchtime, so we mostly ate leftovers. My brother James had secretly bought a couple of big cakes at the patisserie that morning. The chocolate cake did have “happy birthday” candles on it, but they started melting everywhere while I was putting Esther to bed and had to be removed! The fraisier cake was absolutely amazing, so light and moreish!
Afterwards we played “Take Two”, which was greatly enjoyed by everyone during our holiday. To play, you place scrabble letters face down in the middle of the table. Each player takes five tiles to start, which they turn over at the same time. The first person to use all their letters shouts “take two” and everyone takes two more tiles. At the end you count up your score, doubling any letters used twice and deducting any unused letters.
Once it got dark, Aaron and Tabitha played outside with glowsticks.
The children declared that they were bored, so we drove to Carentan in search of a playground.
We had a little wander around the town, and Colin pointed out bullet holes in one of the buildings. We bought some lunch from a boulangerie-patisserie and ate it outside.
We drove a short way to Utah beach, famous for the D-Day Landings. Colin was very keen to go to the museum there as this is a period of history he has studied extensively. He was shocked to find that it was quite biased towards the Americans and barely mentioned the British involvement in the Invasion of Normandy at all!
Then we went to explore the beach outside. It was huge and rather desolate compared to the beaches on the west coast of the Cotentin peninsula. It took us ages to walk down to the water as it was so far away. We saw the oyster farmers going past on tractors and found an enormous oyster shell.
Grandpa and Esther had fun playing with the stacking cups before bed.
The day started out a bit drizzly but seemed like it would clear up.
After breakfast we went out for a walk. This path was not far from our gite and used to be an old railway line. We saw some interesting things, including an elephant hawk moth caterpillar and a stinkhorn mushroom. On the way back, we took a detour through Saint-Nicholas-de-Pierrepont, which is the closest village to where we were staying.
By now the ground had dried up a bit, so when we got back the children played in the garden for a while.
In the afternoon we went south to the coast and found a lovely beach, although we took a wrong turn and drove rather a long way round to get to it. Colin, Aaron and Tabitha headed straight to the sea to explore the rockpools. They came back once the tide had covered the rocks and Tabitha was excited to discover hundreds of sandhoppers! Aaron was less keen on those and had a bit of a meltdown.
Back at the gite for hot chocolate, baths and yet more playing in the garden!
We woke up to rain, so the children played indoors instead of going out into the garden.
As the rain showed no sign of letting up, we decided to head back north to Cherbourg for the day. We wandered around looking for a restaurant to eat lunch, feeling rather cold and wet. Most places were closed, but eventually we found one that was open. The service was absolutely amazing. There were bottles of water on the table before we’d even finished sitting down, the children’s food arrived within minutes and every time a bottle of water or basket of bread came close to being empty it was whisked off and quickly replaced. The food was delicious too.
We spent the afternoon at the Cite de la Mer museum. The entrance hall was filled with deep sea diving machines, all totally different shapes and sizes.
This shows the size of the manned chamber in the Archimedes. It was tiny compared to the unmanned part of the craft!
The main tank in the aquarium was 11 metres deep, making it the deepest in Europe! Aaron and Tabitha were particularly excited to see the sharks and rays, and Esther kept signing and saying “fish”.
Esther was too young to be allowed on the submarine, so my mum and I stayed with her while the others took a tour around Le Redoutable. They were amazed at how big it was inside. Then we had a quick look around the Titanic exhibition, which wasn’t particularly interesting.
Back at the gite, Aaron and Tabitha helped prepare food for dinner. These tomatoes were absolutely beautiful with their different colours and patterns! It almost seemed a shame to eat them.
Then the girls snuggled up with DDS for a bedtime story.
We woke up to more beautiful sunshine. Tabitha and Esther headed straight out to the back garden to play on the swings and munch apples straight from the tree.
Meanwhile Aaron played with our Playmags in the sitting room. I ordered these just before we went away as they dropped to a fantastic price on Amazon, and they have been a huge hit with all three children.
After a delicious breakfast of croissants, pain au chocolat and baguette, we drove north to Barneville-Carteret, where we discovered a wonderful street market.
We bought some lunch from a boulangerie-patisserie. The children hadn’t gone with the menfolk to buy fresh bread that morning, so this was their first glimpse of patisserie! We found a lovely green area to play and eat our picnic.
Tabitha started filling in her travel journal. I made one each for her and Aaron before we left filled with interesting information, I-spy games, wordsearches, diary pages and (most importantly as far as Aaron was concerned) cheese tasting pages!
After our picnic lunch and a drink at a cafe, we went down to the seafront. The beach was huge and surprisingly empty considering what a beautiful day it was.
The children were keen to go into the water, so we fetched their swimming stuff from the car. Colin and Aaron said the water was really warm but Tabitha didn’t think so!
On the way home we found a supermarket and stocked up on food for the next few days. Lots of fresh salads, tabbouleh, pate, rillettes, saucisson and cheese. The children played outside in the garden until dinner was ready.
In the evening, we went for a walk in the country lanes around the gite. There were oak trees and acorns everywhere! We came across a field of cows and waited by the gate until they all came over, much to Esther’s delight.
Back at the gite, Esther toddled off by herself to play in the garden. Meanwhile Aaron and Tabitha made hot chocolate for everyone who wanted it and settled down to play board and card games.
We have just returned from a lovely holiday in France with my parents, my brother and his wife. It was the first time we’ve taken the children abroad so they were really excited! I took over 1700 photos so I’m going to sort through them gradually and spread them out over several posts.
The first day was mostly taken up by travelling. We stopped at my granny’s house for some food and a leg stretch on our way to Portsmouth. It was the first sunny day we’d had for ages, so it was really lovely to sit outside in the garden.
Our ferry was the Normandie Express, which is a high-speed catamaran and much smaller than any other cross-channel ferry I’ve been on. The children were really excited as we slowly made our way out of Portsmouth harbour. Uncle James pointed out which parts of HMS Queen Elizabeth his shipyard had built!
Once we disembarked in Cherbourg, it only took half an hour or so to drive to our gite. It was one of three houses in the middle of the countryside, just a few miles from the west coast. We were welcomed and shown around by a lovely French couple and the children had their first opportunity to use some of the French they have been learning! They left us with some fresh bread and eggs from their own hens, which we poached for supper once we had unpacked.
This is perhaps the first time that the summer holidays have been a big thing for our family, as in previous years it hasn’t made much difference except for everywhere being busier! At the beginning six weeks seemed like such a long time, but the days soon began to slip away from us. This is what we’ve been up to, to the best of my recollection (which isn’t great as I sometimes struggle to remember what we did yesterday!).
We’ve had lots of playdates and days out with cousins, friends and neighbours.
Getting a decent photo of three children is hard enough…
… so eight cousins is almost impossible!
Colin has taken all three children on some lovely days out to beaches and museums, which gave me some much-needed time to catch up on housework and work on decluttering. I did a thorough declutter before Esther was born, but somehow stuff has a way of accumulating again. Minimalism is very appealing to me but I’m not sure we’ll ever really get there.
The children and I also had some lovely days out with my mum, whilst Colin did a week’s work for my brother who is renovating a property. Colin has always been good at working with his hands, so he enjoyed doing some physical work for a change until he fell through a ceiling on his last day! He has also been quite busy preparing lessons for next year. As well as his existing role, he will also be teaching two or possibly three subjects from September, so he’ll have a lot more work to do outside of school hours.
Esther just keeps growing and growing! Her favourite things right now are babies and cars. Her newest signs are again, baby, book, clean, dirty, more and swimming, and she says so many words now that I’ve lost count. She sings along to a few songs and does the actions for “twinkle twinkle little star” and “incy wincy spider”.
She loves to point at and name body parts. So far she knows eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, tongue, ears, head, hair, hands, elbow, tummy, bottom, legs, feet and toes.
Over the last few days she has started to run properly. She likes to jump on beds, sofas and trampolines, and tries really hard to jump on the ground. Although both her communication and physical skills are pretty good, she doesn’t have much of an attention span yet and doesn’t tend to stick with an activity for very long (unless you count going on the slide again and again and again!).
The guinea pigs have grown so much since we first had them. They squeak excitedly and come running to the hutch doors as soon as we open the balcony door. We do have a ramp but they have learned to jump in and out of their hutch, and they love scampering around on the balcony. They climb on our laps and are happy to be stroked, but they hate being picked up. Pepper has a habit of nibbling on absolutely everything, so we have to be a bit careful with fingers and toes! Patches used to be more timid than Pepper but is getting much bolder.
Aaron and Tabitha had a week-long course of swimming lessons and made lots of progress. One morning they had one-to-one lessons with some newly trained instructors, and then got a free diving lesson in the deep end afterwards! Aaron’s front crawl is coming along really well and he has begun to learn breaststroke. Tabitha’s best stroke is backstroke but she is gradually getting the hang of front crawl. They both seem to spend most of their time under the water, which is quite amazing for children who used to make a fuss if they got a single drop on their faces! We took them out for brunch at an American diner after their last swimming lesson.
Tabitha was very excited to do the butterfly kit from Insect Lore again this year. The caterpillars were tiny when they first arrived but grew so quickly that you could see a difference within hours! They took their time to pupate but all five successfully emerged as butterflies. We released them in Auntie Jennifer’s garden and, unlike last year when they stuck around for a while, all but one flew off straight away.
We took my parents down to Trago Mills for the day and went on some of the rides for the first time. The menfolk enjoyed the go-karts but the children not so much; poor Tabitha looked terrified and rather green! We also explored the shop and garden areas.
I applied for and was offered a university place to do the final year of my Childhood Studies degree, starting in September. However, after consideration I have deferred it until next year, as I will then be eligible for some funding. The extra money will allow me to do something like hire a cleaner, so that the children get the best of my attention rather than me trying to spread myself too thinly. I was looking forward to studying again but it makes more sense to wait.
Esther is now between 15 and 16 months old. I want to record what she is like at this moment in time so that I don’t forget.
She can say daddy, boo, hello, bird, poo, tickle, food, bath, thank you, bye, baby, book, shoes, car, look, that, banana, chair, stairs, down, gone, home, fish, spoon and probably a few more that I’ve forgotten. She can sign drink, milk, food, bath, shower, bed/sleep, thank you, more and fish. Her understanding and ability to follow simple instructions is pretty good.
She sometimes uses the potty. She first used it the day after her birthday, when I explained what it was for. She has used it several times since whilst having nappy-free time, including a couple of times completely by herself when I wasn’t even in the same room! She is now beginning to tell me before she goes in her nappy, although there is not yet enough warning to undress her and take her to the potty. I’m not putting any pressure on her at all, we’ll just follow her lead.
She loves music and dancing. She likes to bounce on the bed or sofa. She has lots of little board books with pictures of first words, animals and vehicles which she spends ages looking at. She grabs my finger and points it at each picture to get me to name it.
She dislikes being in the pushchair or trolley when we go shopping and soon starts to scream, which makes shopping trips rather stressful! She sometimes doesn’t want to go in her carseat. It’s an extended rear-facing seat and our car is quite high up, so it can be tricky to get her in while she is trying to fling herself out. However, unlike her two older siblings, she has never shown any signs of travel sickness.
Slides are her favourite thing at the playground and she can manage most of them completely by herself. She is very friendly and will walk right up to strangers, babbling away and pointing to show them things. She is quite happy to sit on the laps of people she has only just met. She is fascinated by dogs and will go up close to them, but is not quite so keen on actually touching them (with the owner’s permission of course).
She is definitely a water baby and loves swimming. She recently learnt to float on her back with almost no support, just a hand ready to catch her if she rolls over.
She insists on shutting the kitchen door whenever we are in there. I tried to prop it open whilst cooking because I was getting rather hot, and she immediately worked out how to close it again! I have no idea why she does this as we don’t normally close the door. When she is hungry she sometimes goes to get a bowl and spoon out of the cupboard as a hint.
She has loved dolls for a while, and is now beginning to play imaginatively with them. She says “poo” and gets me to undress them, puts them in Tabitha’s wooden highchair or cot, feeds them a bottle (I suppose she thinks it’s a beaker) and makes them dance or jump.
She is such a joy to be around most of the time, but she does still have days (usually several in a row) when she just screams for no apparent reason! She hasn’t yet slept through the night and usually wakes up early.
Edited to add: A week later she can now say Mama and Esther. She has also learned to nod and shake her head which she does whenever we ask her a question!
The weekend before last we went camping locally with Colin’s parents. We didn’t manage to get away last year due to Colin changing jobs and not accruing any holiday, so this was also Esther’s very first camping trip. The children and I spent Friday getting all the gear out of the loft, then we loaded up the car as soon as Colin got home from work. The first evening stayed dry long enough for us to get the tent up and have a barbecue.
None of us got a very good night’s sleep. Esther kept getting out of bed, toddling around the tent and getting into other people’s sleeping bags for a while before toddling off again! We definitely need something to contain her next time! Fortunately we all slept in until nearly 8 o’clock.
The children were really keen to go swimming, so we headed down to the indoor pool. It is only a small one but lovely and warm. Esther loves the water and lets her body float in a fantastic horizonal position. Recently she has even started to kick her legs and move her arms to try to “swim”. Aaron and Tabitha demonstrated their swimming skills to Daddy for the first time. Afterwards we headed back to the tent for some soup.
I don’t remember why Tabitha was looking so miserable in this photo, but Esther is always ready to give her siblings a cuddle when they are sad!
In the afternoon we went for a walk along the coast with Granny. Esther napped on my back in the sling for most of the time.
To celebrate Grandad’s birthday we all went out for a lovely evening meal at the local pub. When we got back to the tent it had brightened up a bit, so the children had fun running around outside and making new friends until it began to get dark.
Meanwhile I left Esther alone in the tent with Daddy for a bit, hoping that she would fall asleep. Thankfully she did, so we were able to transfer her to my side of the bed without any hassle.
Apparently hot chocolate before bed is just as much an important part of camping as roasting marshmallows over the fire.
The next morning we had to pack up in the pouring rain. It was nice to spend a couple of nights under canvas again, even if it was a bit damp. I’m hoping we may be able to go a bit further afield over the summer holidays.
May has not been a great month for me. I’ve been feeling a bit down and lacking energy and motivation. I don’t know why, there’s no logical reason. So this half term hasn’t been quite as productive as I had planned. However, we have managed to make the most of any good weather with lots of walks, picnics and trips to the playground.
Esther is at a really fun age at the moment. Since learning to walk she has become a lot more happy and content, although she has started having mini tantrums when she doesn’t get her own way. On a few occasions she has slept for a 6 hour stretch during the night, so her sleep is slowly improving too. She regularly says daddy, boo, hello, piggy, bird, poo and tickle. She also signs drink, milk, food and bath. I’ve been signing to her since birth and almost gave up recently, but then she suddenly realised that she could use signs to communicate and now there’s no stopping her!
Tabitha started going to Brownies after Easter. I hadn’t planned to add another activity to our already-busy week, but Tabitha’s best friend has drifted away from her recently and it was clear to me that she needed an opportunity to socialise with girls her age in a more informal setting than the other clubs she does. She had her promise party just before half term, which we all attended, and she was so excited to get her promise pin and her first badge (hospitality).
Colin usually takes the car to work, but I recently borrowed it for a special occasion. The children and I drove to Valley of the Rocks to spend the day with a Christian home educating family from up north who we’d never actually met before! I “met” the mum on an online parenting forum many years ago, and recently the children have been playing on the CHED Minecraft server together, so it felt like we kind of knew them already. We had a wonderful time and the children got on really well!
The school holidays are now greatly looked forward to as it means lots of time with Colin. The first day of half term was rather cold and grey, but that didn’t stop Colin and the children going for a swim!
Another day we went to the Milky Way Adventure Park with one of Colin’s sisters. I went on my first (and probably last!) rollercoaster ride. Aaron and Tabitha had a go at archery, scoring four and six golds respectively. Afterwards we headed to Westward Ho! for a delicious carvery.
We also had a great day out at Exmoor Zoo, using vouchers that someone kindly gave us at Christmas. I think we’ll say vouchers if anyone asks for gift suggestions from now on; much better than cluttering up the house with yet more toys and the children loved it!
Today I am feeling very thankful for the blessing of family. My children get to grow up surrounded by grandparents, aunts and uncles who love them, not to mention cousins to play with!
Yesterday evening we went for a lovely walk with Auntie Hannah and her three boys. Esther looked so cute toddling around! At home she now walks everywhere and doesn’t really crawl at all anymore.
This morning Tabitha and I went to the allotment with Grandpa to plant out the new strawberries and sow some seeds. It’s tricky keeping on top of it all; Dad is busy with work and I find it hard to get anything done when I take Esther with me. So it’s not as tidy or productive as we would like, but we enjoy the time we do spend there.
This afternoon we went to the beach with Nanny, Auntie Jennifer and her two children. Esther loves the beach! She had a wonderful time eating sand and kept walking or crawling into the water, even though it was really cold!
Tabitha has been saving up for guinea pigs for over a year now. She has borrowed lots of books from the library and we started building a hutch for them. After much research she decided that two sows would be best, but they are quite difficult to get hold of locally as apparently nearly all the females are kept for breeding.
On Friday last week we had a special girls’ day together as Aaron went out for the day with friends. We popped into the pet shop on our way past and saw that they had some female guinea pigs! We dashed back home and returned with the car as soon as Colin got home from work.
Tabitha was so excited to pick out two guinea pigs, plus a temporary cage for them until we can finish building the hutch, and all the other bits and pieces they need. She spent the rest of the evening trying to think of names for them.
This is Pepper. She is an English crested silver agouti.
This is Patches. She is a tortoiseshell and white Abyssinian.
They have been home for a week now and are settling in nicely. They are much more comfortable being handled and have started to “popcorn” around their cage.
They even snuggle up for a nap!
Tabitha has been great at looking after them so far. She has a chart which shows her what jobs she needs to do every morning (check hay and water, fill bowl with pellets, spot clean the cage and prepare fresh vegetables). We also made a colour-coded chart of fresh food that they can have daily, several times a week and just once a week.
Esther loves to watch them in their cage, says “piggy” and occasionally strokes them gently, but she wasn’t very impressed when we put one on her lap!
Guinea pigs are such lovely pets and we are all enjoying the latest additions to our family. Now we just need to get a move on and finish building their hutch!