Daniel’s First Proper Bike

Having been whizzing around on a balance bike for a while now, we were keen to give Daniel a chance to have a go on a pedal bike.  Over the weekend, some friends of ours let us have their daughter’s old bike and Daniel fell totally in love with it!  It has a doll’s seat on the back but when we asked if he wanted us to take it off, Daniel was horrified – he wants to be able to take teddies and dolls for a ride!

Yesterday we spent the Bank Holiday at Moors Valley Country Park and we took the new bike along with us.  Daniel had a little go on it but seemed to forget how to steer or use the brakes!  He really enjoyed having a go though and was content with a ride in the trailer on the back of Chris’ bike when we went for a proper cycle around the Country Park.

We’ve had another practise with the pedal bike today and Daniel is hoping that the weather will improve again so we can get out and about a lot more with it.

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Paulton’s Park and Peppa Pig World

On Wednesday we had our first ever trip to Paulton’s Park.  Many of our friends have season tickets for this family friendly theme park as it is not very far away, but I had put off visiting partly due to the cost and partly because I knew that once Daniel realised such a place existed, he would want to go there all the time!  The time had come, however, when I felt that we had enjoyed his ignorance for too long and I was starting to feel a bit guilty that we hadn’t taken him.  He had picked up that lots of his friends go to a place called Peppa Pig World and, the other week at a motorway service station, saw a billboard advertising it and was very excited about the concept.

We had a fantastic day as the weather was once again beautiful.  I had arranged to meet my sister-in-law Nicky at Paulton’s Park as I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to take two children on my own – not knowing whether there might be lots of two seater rides.  However, I needn’t have worried as it would have been fine to go on the majority of the rides with both the children together.

We started the day in Peppa Pig World where the rides were very tame but enjoyable for Daniel and Joshua.  We did most of the rides but for some of them we did have to queue for quite a long time.  There was one that Joshua was too small for, but otherwise he enjoyed going on all of them.  There were also plenty of ducks (both real and plastic!) to look at as well as a range of other animals including meerkats and flamingos.

We took a picnic lunch and there were more than enough picnic tables dotted around for everyone to enjoy eating outside, even though it was a very busy day.  There were also plenty of places where you could buy food.  I had left our cool bag in the car and was easily able to nip back and get it at lunchtime but there are lockers on site which we could have used if we had wanted to.

During the afternoon, we went on some of the rides in the rest of Paulton’s Park.  Once again, there were many that Daniel was tall enough to go on (he is 104cm) including some of the scarier ‘thriller’ rides.  There were many rides and other parts of the park that we didn’t get the chance to explore simply because we ran out of time.

One of the things that impressed me most about Paulton’s Park was the way in which they obviously take great pride in their site and the attractions.  Everything was clean and well-maintained.  Because of this, and the fact that the children were able to go on many of the rides, the price feels more reasonable than it might do otherwise.  Joshua, being under 1 metre tall, is admitted free which is fantastic given that he was able to do a lot of the rides.  Daniel however, at just over a metre, pays full price – the same as an adult.  I can understand the appeal of having a season ticket if you have a child under a metre (and I reckon it could take Josh a while to reach the metre mark), but the cost of two full price season tickets at almost £200 does sound rather extortionate.

We will definitely plan to visit Paulton’s Park again and I am sure that, even after two visits, there will be much we won’t have been able to fit in.

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Exbury Gardens

On Tuesday Chris’s mum came down for the day and in the afternoon we went to Exbury Gardens.  This is somewhere that I have been meaning to visit since we first moved down here but, until now, hadn’t got around to it.

At the gardens there is a small steam railway and the boys were very keen that we try this out so this was the first thing we did.  This was a nice little ride and they would have loved to do it again.

After our ride on the steam train, we had a wander around the gardens.  The bluebells were beautiful and the boys enjoyed watching the huge fish in Jubilee Pond.

There was much that we didn’t get to see.  The site is 200 acres in size and both the boys were really struggling with tiredness following our action-packed holiday in Minehead.  I would love to go back again to explore more of the gardens but perhaps next time I would either take a pushchair or perhaps, for a more exciting adventure, buy tickets for the ‘buggy service’ which stops at several stops around the gardens.

We ended our visit to Exbury Gardens at their brand new children’s play area.  Although this isn’t very big, Daniel and Joshua loved it and there were also older children enjoying playing there.  It was a lovely way to spend a bright and sunny afternoon and we are so blessed to have such beautiful gardens just a few miles from our house.

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Spring Harvest 2014

You may recall that last April we went to Spring Harvest at Butlins in Minehead.  On Monday we got back from another fantastic Spring Harvest holiday there.

There were so many highlights from this year’s Spring Harvest.  The weather was fantastic and we enjoyed lots of time out and about and visiting the beach.  Daniel also must have covered several miles on his scooter and his balance bike whizzing around the site.  He loved the fairground rides and children’s rides in the Little Stars Funfair.  Joshua, however, was less keen on these!  We enjoyed using the Butlins swimming pool and I even plucked up the courage to go on one of the flumes!

On Friday we were involved with breaking a world record for the most people whistling – six minutes of whistling Crown Him With Many Crowns gets a little wearing after a while!  We have codes which we should be able to use to claim our own certificates – not something you get too many opportunities in life to do!

One of Daniel’s other highlights was meeting his TV hero – Gem from Swashbuckle.  She was really lovely and posed for a couple of photographs with him.

The Christian elements of the holiday were also fantastic with some excellent Bible teaching from Simon Ponsonby.  Daniel and Joshua both enjoyed their groups and Daniel seemed to take in quite a lot of what he heard in songs and stories.  The all-age Big Start each morning was fantastic and Daniel also really enjoyed the all-age celebrations led by Big Ministries.  I’m hoping at some stage to blog about a couple of the parenting and family sessions I went to so watch this space!

We had such a great time at Spring Harvest and all came back absolutely exhausted!  We are already hoping that we might get the opportunity to go again next year!

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Book Review: Six Sacred Rules for Families: A Spirituality for the Home

sacred rules

I have recently finished reading Six Sacred Rules for Families: A Spirituality for the Home by Tim and Sue Muldoon. Tim and Sue Muldoon are Catholic parents of three adopted children and are based in the United States. In this book they share their desire for families to discover the spiritual in everyday life. They state that, ‘authentic spirituality is not something above or beyond everyday life but embedded right in the messy midst of it.’ One of the things that has really stuck in my mind from this book is the way in which they compare family life to life in a monastery:

‘Like a monastery, a family is a group of people who live together and share the ups and downs of daily life. Food preparation, sleeping arrangements, recreational time, cleaning up, and helping one another grow are common to both kinds of communities. Further, both kinds of communities are rooted in the way God has created people to enter into relationships rooted in love.’

The Muldoons recognise that it can be hard to follow their rules perfectly everyday. However, they hope that their rules provide a good focus point as families journey through life together. The six rules in their book are:

God brings our family together on pilgrimage.
Our love for one another leads to joy.
Our family doesn’t care about success.
God stretches our family toward his Kingdom.
God will help us.
We must learn which desires lead us to freedom.

Although I didn’t find their rules especially memorable, I enjoyed reading the book and particularly liked looking at some of their ideas for sharing Bible stories with children. I value the emphasis that the authors put on family life and on the opportunities for deepening our relationship with God in the midst of it.

A busy day with Jenny

Today Jenny came to visit, our first proper chance to catch up with her since she came back from her travels.  We managed to cram a lot into our day with her.  Last May when we last saw Jenny before she went away, I took a picture of Jenny with the boys.  Today we attempted to recreate the picture so we could see how the boys have changed in that time.  Here are the two photographs.

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This morning we took Jenny along to a Room on the Broom activity at the local library.  As well as a selection of craft activities, there was also a trail around the library to hunt for letters.  Once we had found all the letters, we had to rearrange them to make a word linked with the story.  The trail was good fun and was a great way of reinforcing the letter sounds that Daniel has been learning.

This afternoon we headed into the Forest to play Pooh Sticks.  We went to the same bridge that we visited the other week, but today the path was really flooded.  We managed to pick our way carefully across and had lots of fun throwing sticks and stones into the water.  Both the boys had a lovely time paddling around in the large puddles/flooded path even if Joshua did get a little carried away and rather wet!

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New Life on the Farm

Today the boys and I went along to a very wet Little Owls at the Countryside Education Trust. Despite the rain, we had a really enjoyable morning there.

At the start of the session, the boys completed a range of farm animal jigsaw puzzles as well as playing a farm animal snap game. After this we went outside and met lots of different animals. The children were given the opportunity to stroke all sorts of animals from tortoises, rabbits and ferrets to goats, pigs and even a tiny lamb that was only a week old. There were also chances to milk a goat, feed guinea pigs and chickens, and collect eggs which Joshua absolutely loved! We also saw a little chick that had only hatched earlier this morning.

After a break for a drink and a biscuit and a little craft activity, we then played a game up in the orchard. The children had to hunt for laminated pictures of baby animals and then group them together in the right hoop with a laminated picture of the adult animal.

The session ended with a singalong of Old Macdonald Had A Farm before we returned home to dry off!

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