Sometimes the seaside is lovely and sometimes it’s cold and windy (but the kids had a good time)

We went to the beach today. It seemed like a good idea at the time – the children’s centre were renting a beach hut, there’d be activities for the kids and friends for me to chat to, in theory a lovely day. In reality it turned into a day from which each participant emerged with a different story.

Eli would tell you that he had a good time (mostly). He sat on a picnic blanket near the beach and played with shells, spades and pebbles. He had a box of snacks (but would have preferred the snacks his siblings had). At the café he chatted to the other babies and was most put out at not being allowed to crawl about on the, frankly, very grubby floor. He then enjoyed a lovely cuddly sleep in the sling as we walked down the beach before heading home and singing and chatting to Lex in the car.

Tilly and Lex would also tell you how much fun they had. They dug in the pebbles and collected as many shells as possible (although were somewhat disappointed to be limited to taking home two each). Tilly enjoyed the opportunity for some sticking and drawing in the beach hut. They had hot chocolate with both cream and marshmallows in the café and were allowed to chill out with the iPhones whilst the adults chatted and relaxed out of the wind. They then had a chance to run down the beach and explore the exposed rock pools which was fun even if there weren’t any crabs or fish to be seen. All the fresh air meant heading home, cuddled under coats in the car, was a nice time to rest rather than an end to all joy and fun (as it often is).

I had a reasonably good time, sitting with Eli on the beach, chatting to my friends and watching the big kids have a good time. The wind was annoying but on a pebbly, muddy beach at least there was no sand flying into my eyes (except when toddlers digging in front of us threw it in the air but I blame the parents for that). The most entertaining part was on the drive in when, on a narrow stretch of road on which we had priority, an older woman coming the other direction decided to try to push through. There was nowhere for her to go and no amount of her gesturing and driving at the car in front of us made it possible for her to pass us or us to pass her. The stalemate was only ended by R getting out of the car and pointing out to her the priority sign showing she was in the wrong. At that point, with much unhappiness, she made a complete hash of reversing back through the bollards that marked the start of the narrowing, to allow us to pass. She acknowledged R’s cheery wave with what I can only imagine were words not meant for young ears. The incident is still making me chortle hours later.

R did not have a great time. I don’t think watching the big kids whilst I socialise is his idea of a great time. Tilly spilling his drink and Lex dropping his phone on the floor weren’t happy moments either. He was especially narked when, trying to type in his pin code to pay for drinks, Tilly’s constant chatter flummoxed him and caused him to freeze his card through incorrect pin entry. His only happy moment (aside from unable to read signs lady on the way in) was probably when we left and just missed being soaked by rain. The drive back even annoyed him when a learner driver was sent to try his remaining patience.

So, 9/10 for the kids, 7/10 for me (the wind knocked a few points off) and about 2/10 (if we count the old lady as 2) for R.

How often do you manage a family day out where everybody has a good time? We achieve it occasionally but it often seems that at least one person will have a miserable time despite the activities. I’m guessing as the kids get older and their interests diverge it will become even more tricky. Still, at least kids (unlike grown-ups) are relatively easy to entertain even if it is overcast and windy digging in pebbles is great fun!

Travelling with cloth nappies – what we’ve done and what we’d do next time

Eli on holiday in the UK.

When you’re using cloth nappies full-time going on holiday – or any extended stay away from home – means a decision is to be made, do the nappies stay or do they go? I’ve been away twice with Eli, once on a 5 day family holiday in the UK and soon after to South Africa for two weeks when my father passed away suddenly whilst on holiday there with my Mum.

Obviously these were two completely different types of trips but whether or not to take my cloth nappies with me was definitely a consideration both times.

For our holiday in the UK the choice wasn’t too hard: we were only going for 5 days and I knew I had enough nappies even though we didn’t have access to a washing machine. As we were travelling by car we had enough space to pack our full complement of nappies. The only issue was where to store the dirty nappies – a nappy bucket wasn’t an option so we needed a good-sized wet bag (or two) which would zip shut to keep any smells contained. After a bit of research I found a set of Bum Deal wet bags which did the job brilliantly. It was great, no need to buy disposables and all I had to do was to put the nappy wash on as soon as we got home.

Eli at my Mum’s house in South Africa.

Travelling to South Africa was a bit different. It was an unplanned trip (obviously) and organising an emergency passport for Eli and sorting last minute plane tickets were immediate considerations. Whether or not to pack cloth nappies was a consideration though once everything else was sorted. I didn’t do it though, I bought two weeks worth of eco-disposables (not something easily available in SA) and it was okay. If I had to do it again though I would do it differently. Firstly as I stayed at my brother’s flat and my Mum’s house washing wouldn’t have been an issue. Secondly the weather in SA would have meant nice and easy nappy drying as well.

So, if you’re flying and packing space is at a premium and weight is an issue, what nappies could you take? I probably wouldn’t bother taking night nappies – a few disposables would be a lot easier to pack than a bulky two-part nappy. I wouldn’t take many (if any) of my all-in-one nappies as they’re fairly bulky too. That leaves my gNappies, which, thinking about it now – now I’m not stressing about supporting Mum and finding appropriate clothes for Eli to wear to a funeral – would have been the perfect choice. I’ve never used gRefills (the disposable inserts for the nappies) but the hybrid nature of the nappies would have been really useful. Taking all my gCloth (cloth inserts) along with a few packs of gRefills would have been possible (I managed to take a few packs of disposable nappies after all) and I could have used a mix of both depending which was more appropriate at the time. Disposable inserts for the plane and long car journeys and cloth whenever possible.

So, on reflection, whilst travelling abroad with cloth nappies seemed really difficult at the time, a hybrid system would have been perfect. Most of the benefits of full-time cloth but also the steady freeing up of space (for presents and suchlike) that using up disposables resulted in. Plus, using the cloth would have meant not as much money needing to be spent on the disposables – pleasing the skinflint in me – or too much heading to landfill – keeping the eco side of me happy.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…

Throughout the year Tilly asks us “Is it summer now?” and for the quarter of the year where the answer is yes (regardless of the actual weather) her next question is always “Can we go to the beach?”. As we don’t really live too close to beaches that we (grown-ups) particularly like – I grew up in South Africa, beaches to me should be primarily white sand, not pebbles, mud or whatever else tries to pass for a beach on this island – to answer yes to the second question requires a good weather forecast and an early morning lest we spend too much time fighting for parking.

So last night, with a great forecast for today and an agreement to forgo a lie-in this morning, we decided that today would be our beach day. Despite Eli’s attempts to prevent us having any sleep last night, R managed to make the sandwiches and I managed to get out of bed and together we were all out of the door by 8.30 for the journey to the sea.

It was a lovely day. Eli touched sand and sea for the first time (not too impressed with either but began to enjoy the sand eventually). The big kids dug holes, built castles, splashed and ran in the sea. We visited the pier and the town and ate packed lunches and bought ice-creams.

Now we’re home, kids are washed and in bed and R. has headed to the local 7-11 to buy cake. Absolutely brilliant day.

Summer fun with the cousins

Sunday was a fun day at Grandma’s – all the cousins (with Tilly missing) had a great time. Lex and his same age step-cousin T discovered they both are big Lego Ninjago fans – all the better to break the ice when you haven’t seen each other for a year. A game of boules kept the boys entertained in the garden, complete with a measuring tape to check distances and action replay on the camcorder (although they never figured out if T’s ball brushed or not). Finally a game of football in the park and a few runs around the obstacle course completed the day. Lex had a brilliant time but was so tired he was sobbing through most of the bedtime routine. Eli was ok when he was with me, sadly summer events (and lots of people who would like a cuddle with him) and ‘stranger’ and separation anxiety have arrived hand in hand at the same time.

Today SIL and the local cousins came to visit for the afternoon. A trip to ELC after our family dentist appointment yielded a new paddling pool with a shaded area, sprayer and slide which (after I finally worked out how to get the air bed inflater to work) wasn’t too bad to inflate and fill. This, plus the water play table and SIL’s paddling pool enabled us to sit and watch whilst the kids had a great time.

Well, the big kids at least. Eli clearly isn’t feeling 100% and was not impressed by the padding pool, being wet, the grass – pretty much everything. He cheered up at points but really just wanted to have an afternoon of cuddles poor dot. Currently he is in bed but waking up every half-hour or so needing another feed to settle him. The air-con is on so he won’t be too hot at least.

The only hope now is that this won’t be the single decent week during the summer holidays – looks like it’ll change by the weekend sadly.

Now, off to settle the baby once more.

Beginnings and ends – school year 2011/2012

Today was the last day of the 2011/2012 school year. Lex, Eli and I enjoyed the school summer picnic out on the field and took a leisurely stroll home after lunch. Lex then went around to have a water fight with friends who live around the corner.

I think he is relieved that school is finished for summer – the poor kid has a cough that he just can’t shift and is constantly shattered. We’ve bought him a children’s multivitimin to see if we can help him feel better. If the cough doesn’t clear up in a few days I think I’ll be taking him to the doctor just to check what’s up.

Here is Lex the year before – he’s grown up so much since the start of reception!

Today was also Tilly’s last day of nursery. She started in the baby room just before she turned 11 months old (September 2008) and is finishing (after moving through each of their four rooms) at 4 years 9 months so she’s been there for almost 4 years! I’m really sad that she’s finished as we’ve been really happy with the nursery and will miss it. Eli is unlikely to ever attend there as it will probably be much easier to send him to the pre-school attached to the children’s centre next to the kids’ school. We gave them a thank you card and two boxes of chocolates – I’ll take Tilly back on her first day of school so that she can show everybody her school uniform.

Finally we have Eli at the start and end of the school year – it’s hard to believe that this time last year I was very pregnant and still 5 weeks away from meeting my gorgeous little boy.

So now we have 6 weeks of no 7am alarms or nursery runs (in fact no more nursery runs at all!) and we start it with family dentist day tomorrow…

We may yet have a summer

OK, so actually I doubt it but today was nice! Tilly is at the coast with my Mum in order to attend a cousin’s Christening and so it is just my boys and me at home. Much as I love my daughter, she has a raging case of middle-child syndrome at the moment and it has been quite quiet and conflict free at home – I know she’ll be loving the 1-to-1 time with my Mum too.

Lex, Eli and I had a lovely afternoon at a friend of mine’s house – there were a gaggle of kids 0-13 years and enough young boys to keep even my socially awkward lad entertained. I was able to sit and chat whilst cuddling Eli and the food was yum. After lunch we took the kids to the park, definitely a good day.

Tomorrow we get to see R’s step-brother and his family and they get to meet Eli – Lex normally gets on quite well with his step-cousin so it should be another good day. Only having to keep an eye on one child (Eli is easy to keep near me) should reduce the stress I normally suffer at MIL’s house – my two big kids do seem to bounce off the walls there in a fairly hideous fashion!

Fingers crossed I may even have a lie-in tomorrow – no squabbling, or even chatting nicely, siblings at 6.00am would be a relief – I am very tired.