Friends, fish and fire – our first school Half Term

Half term has been and gone and while Oscar definitely showed me that he was missing the routine of school, he did really well and we had lots of fun.

Cousin love

We started the holiday with a lush visit from Ben’s sister and her two little ones. I love my niece and nephew so much and watching Oscar play with them (sometimes happily, sometimes grumpily!) just makes me so happy. We had such a lovely time, I was even willing to forgive that they both asked over the course of two days “Auntie Lisa why is your house so tiny”. Out of the mouths of babes I guess!

Cousin cuteness

Cousin cuteness

We took them to our favourite hangouts while they were here, including Applegarth Farm and Dylan’s Milk Barn. Rachel said she felt like she knew Dylan’s already having heard me talk about it so often. I might start charge Ben, the owner a PR fee!

The Neicephews discover Dylan's

The Neicephews discover Dylan’s

Home Start

Once they’d returned home we had a lovely visit from our old Home Start Volunteer. Despite being released from the programme that helps preschool families, our wonderful Rent a Gran (as I lovingly call her), was worried about how Oscar had got on since starting school. It was so touching to know she’d been thinking of us. She popped over for a catch up and bought me such a lovely begonia. It reminded me of the one’s my own Nanna would always have in the house when I was small.

begonia

A kind and thoughtful gift

National Marine Aquarium Plymouth

We finished the week with a short trip down to Plymouth to see some friends. Oscar loved having a sleep over with their daughter and they played so nicely (he kept asking for her once we left). Our friends couldn’t get over the improvement in Oscar’s language. When you hear it every day it’s hard to remember just how much has changed in such a short space of time.

We couldn’t go all that way without a trip to Oscar’s absolute favourite – The National Marine Aquarium. You might remember we went at Easter and I kid you not it’s the only place Oscar has ever asked to go back to. Again and again! Periodically since April he’s just asked “We go Quarium?”. It’s been heartbreakingly cute. And so we planned to take him for the last hour when we arrived on Friday, as we did last time. And like last time we didn’t have to queue and we kind of tailed the majority of the other visitors. Or rather we would have, had Oscar not just been sat in a car for four hours. He went in at top speed and raced around glancing at the tanks as he flew past. When we got to the end he announced he needed the loo. So we found one near the beginning and when he came out, we just started the Aquarium all over again, this time much slower. It worked a treat!

The main tank at the National Marine Aquariu

The main tank at the National Marine Aquarium. Stunning

father and son at aquarium

“Look daddy it’s broken!” Oscar was fascinated by the environments created at the aquarium

boy at aqaurium

Oscar loved getting up close and personal with the biggest fish tank he’s ever seen!

boy and fish

Happy Boy

A rare still moment.

A rare still moment.

The staff at the NMA were just as lovely as always. I realised half way down to Devon that I’d forgotten our DLA and Carer’s letters to prove we were entitled to concession tickets. Just in case, I tweeted them to ask if there was any other way of getting the concession price. I was told to ask for Olly at the desk. When we arrived we did just that and he told the front of house to waive our fee. It was just so kind and much appreciated. Thank you Olly!

Out of interest I also saw this while we were going round. I’m gutted we will miss it again, but if you know anyone who may appreciate a quieter session at the National Marine Aquarium then the next one is on 16th November. Find out more here.

img_6444

Bonfire

We finished our stay with a family bonfire at our friend’s dad’s beautiful cottage just outside Plymouth. We had an amazing bonfire, a bbq and a chance to catch up with friends we’ve known for years. And I mean years. I met our hosts sister on her first day at secondary school. 26 years ago! It was so lovely to see everyone and to watch our children get to know each other. Oscar was nervous of the dogs to begin with, but once he started playing with the children he relaxed and stopped noticing them. He had so much fun. And it was a night of firsts for him too. His first sparkler, that he loved and was very good with (with 100% supervision) and his first McDonalds, that he didn’t like at all. Fair enough. Thank you to the Pringle clan for making us so welcome. As always.

img_6458

Family Bonfire

Oscar's first sparkler. I held his hand until he said, "no mummy I do it" !

Oscar’s first sparkler. I held his hand until he said, “no mummy I do it”

Back to school

I was worried how the holidays, the first break from school since he started in September, would go. And I know I definitely saw some signs that he was missing it, but really, he coped amazingly well, showing off his improved language and social skills. And despite being ill this week (impetigo apparently, no I didn’t know what it was either!) he’s had a great return to school.

And today he had his first fully dry day without accidents since he started.

This year just keeps getting better for him!

 

 

Our Christmas Plans

It’s true. It’s 18th December and I haven’t written a single Christmassy post this year. Compare that to last year, when I couldn’t get enough. Ahh well. It’s not that I’m not feeling the festive spirit, I am, just in a different way and with so much else going on, it’s felt disingenuous to write light hearted pieces when I don’t really feel light of heart.

But preschool term is now over. The paperwork for his EHCP is being processed and we wont find out until the beginning of January as to whether he gets one. Schools are closed and I can’t visit any more. So I’ve decided to try and put all that down for the holidays. Worrying and even thinking about it wont change anything. It’s time to lay those weights down for a few weeks and just enjoy my family.

So what are our Christmas plans? Well, actually it’s the one thing that’s kept me going these past few months, I am so excited about it. Last year we stayed home and went out for Christmas dinner (as we’ve done several times before). It wasn’t exactly a disaster, but the wait for the food was interminably long. Oscar coped (just), but it took everything we had in us to get him through and I realised, even then, that I would need more control over the situation this year. We don’t have the space to host Christmas at home, so it was clear we would need to go somewhere else. But asking family or friends to host and then asking them to do everything your child needs to make it through the season, well it was a big ask. Too big an ask in my eyes. So back in the summer we decided to hire somewhere, make a holiday of it. And if we were going to do that, then why not do it where all our family are.

outsideshot2

Which is how we came to find an apartment in the Royal William Yard in Plymouth, Devon. It’s a relatively newly refurbished Victorian military barracks and we’ve hired a three bedroom apartment for the entire Christmas week. I’m so excited. It not only gives me a place to cook and serve Christmas dinner to my family (something I’ve not done properly in five years!), it also means my mum can stay with us on Christmas Eve and see Oscar opening his presents (something she’s never done), we can see all our family and friends over the course of a week (instead of trying to whiz round and see everyone in a couple of days which we usually do when we visit) and be included in traditional family shindigs. But the best thing about it is I can give Oscar the time and space to decompress, as and when he needs it. Staying with other people can be a wonderful experience, but it puts an awful lot of pressure on everyone. And this way if my son just wants to watch Thomas in his pyjamas and not go out, or we need to leave somewhere he’s been over stimulated, we can.

outsideshot

Royal William Yard

lounge1

lounge3

I’m not saying it’s the perfect solution to what can be a stressful time for everyone. I’ve been mentally planning what I might need to take with me to be able to cook a full Christmas dinner in a strange, and not necessarily well equipped, kitchen (this is after all a holiday let) for weeks. But I think it’s a damn near close as I can get it. And anyway, my sister in law text me the other day to tell that that although they’re away on Christmas day, she’s giving a key to Ben’s mum and should I need any utensils or such from her well equipped kitchen, then to just take them. I could have kissed her. Had she not been 300 miles away!

But that’s exactly what I’m hoping this Christmas will be all about. Family. Oscar is a part of a family he barely knows and I want that to change. I want him to spend time playing with his cousins, who when he does see he adores. I want him to spend time getting to know his Aunties and Uncles (Uncle Paul, I hope you know we have a child as active as you ever were!). I want him to feel the love his grandparents have for him. Everyone has been so supportive of him and everything about him that makes him Oscar. To them he’s just one of the clan.

12370835_10154387767800616_7536892052078047327_o

Oscar’s ‘Christmas Book’, a book of pictures to help him identify where we’re going and who we’ll be seeing beforehand.

So we’re off on 23rd. And I can’t wait. I’ve made a book of laminated pictures of the flat and all our family for Oscar to look at. The food shopping has been done online. The presents have all been bought and wrapped. We’ve got the artificial tree to take with us. The flat has wifi. What more could we need? As with everything we’re expecting the best and preparing for the worst. Oh, and Ben and I are taking full advantage of having my mum with us on Christmas Eve and leaving her to babysit while we go for dinner at The River Cottage.

River Cottage Canteen Plymouth - our Christmas Eve plans!

River Cottage Canteen Plymouth – our Christmas Eve plans!

Weeeeell, it’s not all about the family 😉

 

 

A Cornish Mum

A reason to celebrate

Last weekend we had one of those perfect experiences. You know, when you think, OK well this is happening, it could be OK, but it also could go horribly wrong and then it’s better than you ever hoped? One of those.

Ben’s maternal grandparents celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary last week (that’s 60 years people!) and wanted to mark the occasion by bringing their relatively small, but rather geographically scattered family together. It was a really lovely idea and something we haven’t done in ages! The family were all booked in to a small boutique country hotel near Kingsbridge, Devon and invitations sent. However, this really wasn’t the kind of establishment that leant itself to toddlers, so it was agreed both Oscar and his cousins Lucas (3) and Anya (16 months) would stay elsewhere. My sister in law easily found an extended family member to sit for her in their home in Plymouth. However all our family are also in Devon, not Surrey where we live. Finding someone who Oscar felt comfortable with and who had the space was not going to be easy.

This in itself could have derailed our weekend from the off. Oscar doesn’t often stay the night with other people, mostly because our family all live hundreds of miles away. And the last person he successfully stayed with was joining us at the hotel. He doesn’t really know his extended family well enough, or they don’t have the space. So it was with some trepidation we asked our good friend Michelle whether she would have him. As he’d recently spent a few days with Michelle and her 4 year old daughter Holly when they visited a couple of weeks ago, we figured she would be fresh enough in his mind to be familiar. Add that to the fact that I just knew that Michelle would be bloody marvellous with him, I felt really confident leaving him with her. Her daughter Holly was so excited Oscar was coming for a ‘sleepover’ it was all Michelle could do to convince her not to sleep on the floor next to his bed!

So on Saturday we headed off to Plymouth, with the boy in the back thoroughly enamoured of the iPad in its new holder attached the to the headrest. We’d downloaded a few films and some Thomas the Tank Engine and by golly it was the most peaceful four hour journey we’ve ever had. He’s not a bad traveller all told, but this is my little ball of energy we’re talking about and four hours is a lot to ask of him. Despite setting off at 8.30am, nowhere near his nap time, he did brilliantly and even snoozed for the last hour of the journey waking up 10 minutes from our destination. When we arrived he was happy and calm and easily distracted enough by the gazillions of new toys not to bother about us leaving. We ran to the car like escaping convicts!

Buckland Tout Saints Hotel, Goveton

Buckland Tout Saints Hotel, Goveton

The beautiful misty view from our room

The beautiful misty view from our room

The hotel we stayed in was the Buckland Tout Saints and we arrived with plenty of time to join the family in the bar. I was unwinding with a Pinot by 3pm and it felt fantastic. Everyone was in fine sprits (literally) and the fun began in earnest. It was just so nice to get to chat. I’ve known Ben’s sister longer than I’ve known Ben, but as Ben and I have been together 17 years this year, it always feels like catching up with old friends when the family get together. We talked about the children and our lives and this and that. My brother in law was most impressed by their bathroom, which was on a mezzanine floor in their room. I think we were all taken to see it at some point or another!

Sent to to my sister in law when we went to get ready for dinner

I sent this to to my sister in law when we went to get ready for dinner

Getting ready in peace was amazing. We put some tunes on the iPad and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of putting my make up on without feeling like a fugitive hiding from someone (also known as the boy!) I got to wear my gorgeous new dress and as promised here is the evidence. It was so beautiful and comfortable and felt both smart and fun. It wowed the family just as I hoped it would. Nice one Pepperberry!

Charlotte dress by Pepperberry Size 16 Super Curvy

Charlotte dress by Pepperberry Size 16 Super Curvy

Super smiley - 3 glasses of wine in. Or was it 4 ;)

Super smiley – 3 glasses of wine in. Or was it 4 😉

Dinner was just how a big family meal should be. Full of chat, laughs, debate and fun. Who knew Aunty Gillian’s inability to get her arm out of shot would cause such hilarity? But then that’s what it’s all about. Laughing at the silly memories that mean nothing to anyone else.

Fun and laughter

Family

I just love the joy on Ben's grandma's face in this one.

I just love the joy on Ben’s grandma’s face in this one.

Me and the hubster

Me and the hubster

Rachel and Ross photobombed by 'Uncle' Andy!

Rachel and Ross photobombed by ‘Uncle’ Andy!

After dinner we proceeded to take over the bar (again) and partied until the small hours. Not sure how, but I seemed to drink myself sober. I even took my make up off when I went to bed and woke with no hangover at all! Bonus!

We picked up Oscar the next day, to hear that apart from not wanting to brush his teeth, he’d been fine with Michelle and actually put himself into bed and had fallen asleep immediately. What a star! He had taken every toy in the house out though, which I did feel a bit bad for, so we ensured Michelle was rightly compensated with wine, chocolates and flowers. We can’t explain how much knowning he was OK allowed us to have the best night. So once again THANK YOU MICHELLE!

From Michelle’s we took Oscar over to his Great Grandparents house. Again it’s not somewhere he’s been in a very long time and we were concerned how he’d cope being in a strange environment with a group of adults he doesn’t known all that well. We shouldn’t have worried. He was absolutely fine, heading straight for the toys in the conservatory and playing with his Great Granddad (and his namesake. Oscar’s middle name is Frederick). And when Lucas arrived with his sister Anya, well that was that. Oscar’s not always the most receptive to other children, but for his cousin Lucas he makes an exception. Despite only seeing Lucas handful of times in his life and certainly not for the last nine months, they have some kind of connection I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand. Every time they see each other they are like the best of friends and this time was no different. Within half an hour they were chasing each other round the house, laughing like drains and even holding hands, something I never see Oscar do with his chums! I don’t know, maybe they look at each other and see something familiar (or familial!) in each other. Either way it was beautiful to see and we cant wait until Lucas is old enough to come and stay with us!

Despite the time between visits they're always the best of friends

Despite the time between visits they’re always the best of friends

Holding hands partner in crime

Holding hands – partners in crime

Follow me, I know the way to the trouble!

Follow me, I know the way to the trouble!

We tried desperately hard to get a picture with all the children in one shot, but you know kids. They are wont to move. A lot! This was the best I did!

What? All three of them are technically in shot. It was the best I could do!

What? All three of them are technically in shot. It was the best I could do!

And I particularly like this one of my niece Anya. She’s going to be tall like her Grandma I think!

Anya, 16 months old. Going to be tall like the rest of the clan!

Anya, 16 months old. Going to be tall like the rest of the clan!

We finished the lunch off with a celebratory cake, made by Ben’s mum. As soon as Oscar saw it he sat up to the table and started singing what I believe was his attempt at Happy Birthday! Bless!

image

Cake!

Cutting the cake once again 60 years on

Cutting the cake again, 60 years on

We left, sad to be going, but so pleased that we’d been privileged enough to celebrate such an amazing milestone with such an awesome couple. A couple who raised two children, supported two grandchildren and care for three Great Grandchildren. A couple who have so many interests and hobbies and friends and ‘joie de vivre’. A couple whose attitude inspire the whole family, every day.

So here’s to a great weekend, to a great family and to a great 60 years.

Here’s to Fred and Peggy

... to Fred and Peggy!

… to Fred and Peggy!

Virtual Family

I don’t have a large extended family. And the family I do have is scattered, fragmented and as generally dysfunctional as most. I don’t think it’s different or special in that way. This weekend my mum was visiting from Devon to celebrate her 60th birthday. I can’t remember how we got onto the subject and maybe it was the passing of such a significant birthday that put her in a reflective mood, but we started talking about ‘the family’ and in particular Cousins.

I have three cousins, all siblings. I was nine when the first was born and in secondary school by the time the third arrived. By then we had also moved away from the Midlands to Devon. Beyond occasional updates from my Nanna, I grew up knowing very little about them. But I don’t feel I suffered because of it. I personally don’t feel there was ever a relationship to be had there. My sister who is closer in age to the oldest cousin may disagree but I’ve never felt I should feel more for my cousins than I did.

Social media can be a blessing and a curse. I’m particularly good (don’t ask me how) at internet research (curse my flitty mind that will jump around a problem rather than focus 😉 ) and talking about la famillia made me curious. What are my cousins doing now? They’re all in their twenties and yeah they’re all on Facebook. Time for a bit of FB stalking! My oldest cousin has changed his surname, which made it harder to find him, but find him I did. It also made me wonder whether he’d actually changed his name or if it was just a FB thing. People do it. Or if he has, why has he? The youngest two are now dancers/performers, which doesn’t really surprise me. It was something they both did religiously as children, so they’re all over the internet, meaning I found out plenty despite their locked FB pages. Then there’s Twitter. The youngest is an avid Tweeter with over 10K tweets. Most of it was normal 21 year old dancer buff, but I also found out some really personal stuff about her life choices.

I started to regret looking. I felt a bit creepy knowing this much about people I only had a passing interest in. Its not even like we were close or played as children. But the youngest looks so much like my sister I couldn’t stop looking in wonder at her pictures. Was she a nice person, was she happy? I surmised that she’s happy she’s in the business she is, but deeply insecure about certain aspects of it. But then this is social media. Can you ever really tell anything about a person and their life from a bunch of tweets?

It also made me think just how much of ourselves we put out there on the internet. Yes we can change our FB setting to Fort Knox level of security, but that means jack if you use Twitter or Instagram or any other myriad of social media thats out there. I rarely use Twitter (just can’t get my head around how negative it can be) but I have other accounts. I write this blog, which is free and open for all the world to see. It’s my choice to write here, and I have to be OK with the audience it could potentially reach. It’s a truth I think we’re all well aware of, but in order to sleep at night we push to the back of our minds. And the saddest thing for me is it’s not the strangers who could be looking at my pages without me knowing that worry me, but those closer to me, like extended family.

I thought about following my cousins on Twitter, or friending them on FB, but I knew I’d just be doing it out of curiosity. And if it bothers me to think they could be looking at my stuff then maybe it’d bother them to know that’d I’d been looking at theirs. Maybe their parents don’t yet know the things I now do. Maybe they don’t want their parents to know. I hope thats not the case. If I can find out this easily, anyone can.

I closed my cousin’s Twitter page and went to check my security settings.

And Google my own name.