It wasn’t sofa naps, it was hospital: First Week of Play-Along

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I did warn you last week. I did say that sometimes the Summer Play-Along might be interrupted.

When I wrote that, though, I was thinking more along the lines of being too lazy to do craft activities. I wasn’t expecting it to be interrupted by a two day stay in the Children’s Ward of our favourite hospital. An infection caused an asthma flare up and Tuesday found us in A&E with the Boy on oxygen and hourly nebulisers. We got out two days later, as always feeling tearfully grateful for the wonderful nurses and doctors who looked after him, and the amazing play facilities provided for the children on the ward, while simultaneously being so so very happy to be back home.

Here is a little overview of what we did manage to do at home:

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And there was playing in the hospital as well, even if it wasn’t from The Box. The Boy made Numberjacks and minions out of paper, and The Girl fell in love with her “own little girl piggy”. When she came, supposedly to visit her brother, she ignored my arms held out ready for a big hug, thinking she would have missed me overnight, and searched the room for the pig. The pig got a hug, not me.

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What I have learned from this first week of summer activities is that sometimes just committing to doing something special every day is enough to make it happen, even if it wasn’t what you prepared earlier. Having steeled myself mentally for putting in a bit of effort every day made me more inclined to say yes to other things the children suggested or thinking up extra plans. We made rainbow pancakes from a Peppa Pig magazine and played Chloe’s Closet in the play tent, we made a 4 times table poster (every day is a school day for the Boy!) and played chase in the garden.

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Here’s hoping for a more normal week next week!

Growing in the sunshine

IMG_2763Perhaps you noticed that the sandpit was a little quiet over the Easter holidays

We were away – catching some unseasonal summery weather in a lovely holiday home with a pool. We’d booked very last minute and had been hesitating between several options, studying pictures and descriptions. In the end we chose a villa that had a long list of rave reviews from previous visitors, and we weren’t disappointed.

When we arrived, we discovered that the pictures had really not done the villa justice. It had a vast garden, an orchard, a bird house, a separate pool house with a little fridge and a bar and – there was a children’s play house. With a fence around it. And toys inside. And a tricycle. It was absolutely perfect and we all fell in love as soon as we set foot in the grounds.

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Every morning as soon as she woke up, the Girl ran to the back door, pressed her nose against the glass and said hopefully: “Housh?” The Boy christened it “the tree house”, and found some peculiar but apparently very absorbing Boy-activities there that he loved (they involved making a mole hill out of gravel…) There was so much to do: the Girl force-fed the dolls orange juice, the Boy rode the tricycle, he wanted me to read the sign next to the little dog house every day, I was commissioned to Do Writing on the blackboard, we read Richard Scarry books in Spanish, we (I) did puzzles and played with the toy microwave oven.

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The Boy and the Girl also had heart-meltingly lovely times when they played together. The cutest was when they sat together on the gravelly ground, the Girl scooping up handfuls of “stones” and handing them to her brother, who piled them high into one of his mole hills while singing a jolly song. They did this for about ten minutes, and all that time the Girl had a little hand resting on The Boy’s leg. When she lost interest and toddled off, the Boy lay down sadly on the ground and muttered disconsolately: “I want to play with you, A.” She just ignored him and tried to make the dollies IMG_2748sit on little stools.

The last time we went on holiday it was in an apartment and the Girl had only just learned to walk. This time, things were very different and she toddled about with great glee, enjoying a bit of freedom to run around. It wasn’t easy, though. Everything was at an angle, or had steps. There was gravel instead of grass, and there were tiles instead of carpets. I was a little worried about whether she’d cope, but in actual fact, the Girl took to the challenge with infectious enthusiasm. As the days went by, she learned how to navigate the unfamiliar terrain. She remembered where all the steps were and would find something to hold on to as she went down them, saying “step, step, step” as she came down. She scrambled and slid up the steep gravelly slopes on all fours at first, but by day four she was walking up them upright, compensating for the angle by leaning forwards and taking smaller steps.

Maybe, I thought, this was just what she needed. Challenges, and opportunities to learn. She certainly got more steady on her feet.

We went to the beach, where she exclaimed in delight over the sand, but expressed some distress at it getting in her favourite strawberry shoes. The Boy took his bucket and spade and continued his mole hill project, getting very annoyed if the Girl tried to get involved or knocked his hill over. The sea, for him, was a source of water to improve the texture of the sand for mole hill building. The Girl, on the other hand, was enchanted by the water itself. As soon as she saw the sea, her tiny face lit up. She ran towards the waves, pulling me along behind her, her little feet sinking into the soft sand. She walked right in, and laughed and cheered and stomped her little feet in the waves, not caring if they soaked her, shouting “plash! plash!”

Our villa was a calm, sunny space where time moved slowly, and we had the time to watch our children play and realise how much they had grown up. There was the Girl, climbing onto  chairs and sitting up at the table next to her brother. Her vocabulary exploded in those seven days, with all the new things to see and talk about, and she chattered away saying “S sit here” and “Daddy have juice” and “oh no! ball ‘way!”

"Allo birds"

“Allo birds”

The Boy was so independent, inventing his own games, busy with little projects, but also connecting with us on a much more grown up level. He appointed himself Daddy’s swimming coach as he attempted a dip in the ice cold pool. The week was lovely and sunny, but the pool was not heated and I was definitely not going to be doing any swimming. The Husband, however, braved the cold, cheered on by The Boy who counted the steps down into the pool. In the afternoons when the Girl napped, The Boy would come and lie on the sun lounger next to mine and do drawings, stickers or his Peter Rabbit magazine while I read a book. This was a new and pleasant development.

We watched the two of them, playing and laughing and discovering, and felt very lucky. It was lovely to have this pause, this refuge, these frozen moments in time to look and think and sit back and be.

Now, we are back home , trying to cling on to the good things  from our week away. We squeezed in another barbecue last weekend and mowed the lawn to make the garden more inviting for the kids to play in. I found that I was a lot less stressed about taking the kids to play outside, having spent an entire week outdoors, and made sure that we were out for a while every day while the sun was shining.

I am also trying to give the Boy more independence and responsibility, trying to trust him more, not doing everything for him because I think it will be quicker.

And the same goes for the Girl, who I often carry out to the car or up and down the stairs, for speed. I have started putting her little feet down on the ground, taking a deep breath and accepting that things will need to take a bit longer, but that in the long run, it will lead to more independent children. So I let her walk up and down the stairs at her own pace.

“Step, step, step,” she says, placing her feet with precision, holding on to the rail with one hand and my finger with the other, her tiny bunches bobbing with every step.

Like spring flowers, we have spent time in the sun and slowly, we are starting to blossom.

 

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Linking up to Loud ‘n Proud over at Mother of Three World. Next week I’ll be hosting so come back then to share more of your proud moments!

Sun, sea and Numberjacks

This was the first time we’d been on a proper holiday abroad for two years. Those two years obviously made a massive difference to how The Boy experienced the adventure. He joined in the anticipation, for one, and in the days leading up to our departure would ask whether we were going to the seaside today and whether his fire engine (his Trunki ride on suitcase) could come. He also picked up on our destination. On the plane he kept repeating, his eyes wide with wonder:  “Going-a Spain.” The Girl was less impressed with the flight, and screamed non-stop during the second hour, finally falling into an exhausted slumber as we landed and had to get off.

We arrived at the apartment late at night, the kids asleep in the car. We carried them straight up to bed. The next morning, I greeted the Boy with: “You’re in Spain!” For the rest of the week, he was convinced that ‘Spain’ was the apartment and would ask to go “back to Spain” when he’d had enough of a trip to the supermarket or an outing that didn’t include enough snacks. We tried explaining that Spain was a country, just like England or The Netherlands, and that the supermarket, the beach and the park were all in Spain too, but to no avail. By the end of the trip we just went along with it, wearily confirming that yes, there were ice creams back in Spain and he could have one once we got there.

He was initially a bit disappointed that there was no television in Spain, but being a resourceful little chap, he had soon rectified this by commissioning me to make all the Numberjacks, their enemies and accessories out of paper and acting out episodes with them endlessly; assigning all the toy cars we’d brought identities from Roary the Racing Car; designating the plants on the balcony as The Veggies from Mr Bloom and casting his two Duplo polar bears (the one in the plane and the one in the car) in the roles of Splish and Splash from Iconicles (or Icono-barnacles, as he insists the program is called). This kept him occupied for hours. There were even some interesting mash ups, like when Roary crashed and the Numberjacks came to rescue him with some brain gain.

There were also plenty of amazing fun things to do outdoors. Going to the beach quickly became number one favourite, even warranting a little song: “Going-a beach is fuuuuuun!” Building sandcastles, digging holes, sunbathing next to mummy and washing hands at the special fountain were instant hits. The sea took some getting used to. He wanted to keep a safe distance at first and was very worried that the waves would come and get us, but slowly he and the sea made friends and he was happy to play by the water’s edge, writing numbers in the sand.

Meanwhile, the Girl practised walking, played with her brother’s toys, fell over and hurt herself, got lots of cuddles, learned to say “uh oh” but not when to say it other than to get a laugh from the rest of the family, played in the sand for ages and spent a lot of the nights awake. Goodness knows why, but she’s a baby and doesn’t need a reason.

The flight back was in the middle of the night. The Boy had doggedly stayed awake during the 45 minute car ride to the airport, saying “bye bye” to all the cars we passed, and was still awake when we took off. Finally, around midnight, he dropped off, his head resting on Daddy’s arm, just as the Girl woke from a blissful slumber. She spent the flight charming all the other passengers with beaming smiles.

We arrived home in the dead of night and put the Girl straight to bed. The Boy was not having it. He was far too excited to be home. He greeted the cats with great delight and then wanted to dive into his favourite activities. “Watch Chloe’s Closet,” he insisted. “Watch Numberjacks?” When TV turned out not to be an option, he found his paper Numberjacks again and had to be dragged away from them with hissed threats and bribes to stop him screaming the house down and waking his sister and the lodger.

Spain was great, but clearly, nothing beats S house.

Drawing in Spain

Drawing in Spain

Guest Poem: Trebarwith Strands

Remember Skeletons at Midnight? It was for my multi-talented friend Anita, whose wonderful poetry inspired me to write my own. As I am offline for a bit while on holiday, she has very kindly provided a guest poem which she wrote in answer to Stay at Home. Enjoy!

Trebarwith Strands

I pack myself away
As I turn off
My phone.
Then, spilling out into field and sky.
We unstitch,
We undo.

The sea salt air
Whispers between us,
Cleans us,
Of the arguments that live
In houses.

An illness, mild and barely there,
Anchors us to canvas, in place.
We hear the wind, we see the moon
We talk of the wind, and we talk of the moon.

The tight threads of us unravel.
Our strands, loose, in the wind,
Weave new patterns between us.

In the day, the boys grow, faster.
They run and run, until there is no
More field.
Then sit, precariously, on gates
And talk to cows.
In the evening, they wonder at
Clouds, spread with a knife across
Blazing skies.

The sea salt waves
Wash between us,
Freeing us,
From the time that lives
In houses.

Illness keeps us small;
We take idle walks.
We make tiny trips.
We keep little company.
We make miniature meals of fudge and cream.

For a whole week I am lost.
There is no signal here,
No way to be found,
No fragments to update.
I forward roll, I play bat and ball,
I sit and watch the boys play.
I see them,
Their strands, loose in the wind,
Weaving new patterns.

At night, I listen
As the wind, gently,
Tugs at the threads of the tent.
My strands unravel, but
I am not lost.
Just re-connected.
Re-stitched.
Home.

trebarwithsands
Anita is a freelance artist/writer/mum/tutor depending what day/time/event it is. She lives a precarious life trying to balance all of them, but still finds time to sell things on eBay to fund her handbag addiction collection. www.anitawadsworth.co.uk