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.


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!


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.


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!


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!

Eggtastic Easter

This morning all four of us went along to the Countryside Education Trust’s Eggtastic Easter event and we had a really lovely family time together.

The session started with a quiz trail around the farm at the Out of Town Centre in Beaulieu. At each of the question points there was both a question for the children and one for the adults. Most of the children’s questions were simple enough for Daniel to have a go but both the boys enjoyed looking for the questions on the trail as well. We were amazed to discover that our family came joint first with another two teams meaning that we got a chocolatey prize!

After the quiz trail, we had a couple of craft activities to complete – making Easter cards and decorating Faberge style eggs! The egg decorating, in particular, was a lovely activity. The children were given polystyrene eggs as well as some sequins and little plastic pins. The pins were not too sharp but went through the hole in the sequin and into the polystyrene to hold the sequin in place. Both the boys really enjoyed this activity (and Chris got quite into it too).

Once we had completed our crafts, we then went up to the orchard where we all took part in an Easter egg hunt. Both Daniel and Joshua managed to find some eggs which we were then able to bring home.

Despite the rather miserable weather today, we really enjoyed our time at the Eggtastic Easter event and spending some quality fun time with each other. We will definitely look out to see if they repeat it next year.

Fingerprint Flowers

For both my mum and Chris’ mum for Mother’s Day, the boys and I did some fingerprint flower paintings.  I prepared the ‘canvases’ in advance with green paint for the stems and then let the boys add coloured flowers with finger paints.  Joshua didn’t quite understand the delicacy needed for such a project but enjoyed smearing the paint all over his card with his whole hand!  Daniel got the hang of it, though, and we were both pleased with the finished result.  This is a nice simple craft if your child understands that sometimes less is more when it comes to paint!


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