The Gallery: How to celebrate your birthday while pregnant.

It’s always difficult to know what to do on your birthday when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  At least for me, prior to kids, birthdays and alcohol went hand in hand.My Uni friends and I have a camping weekend every May bank holiday, which is also my birthday. I missed a few due to pregnancies and births, but the year after Mr G was born I was fed up to the back teeth of low key birthdays.  The girls suggested camping in our back garden as I was still feeding the boy who would have nothing to do with bottles.  At the last minute I decided to do something special to thank them for giving up on a more exciting location and hired a tipi. The Cowgirls and Indians theme followed.
I love this shot as my good friend N is so “in role” both as man and cowboy.  There’s a kind of moody smoke haze from the chimenea (yep I only learnt that words in my thirties) but easy relaxed smiles of good mates catching up too.

Earlier in the day we staged a cowboy raid on the “Native American village” in which baby G was “stolen”.  I have no idea where this idea came from although I have googled this and found a couple of Native American legends about stolen babies, so there must be some kernels of truth in our narrative.  As you can see we stayed in role brilliantly, no one had the giggles and no baby was harmed in the making of this legend.

The wonderful Anji from The Tipi Hire Company came and put it up in the garden, at very short notice, and supplied us with cushions and mats and fairy lights.  Tipis are magical and very cosy, later we gossiped into the night watching the stars through a flap in the roof.
It was the best low alcohol birthday celebration, although I just remembered hiring a motor boat on the Thames for my birthday while pregnant with Miss L which rates highly too:
Me and Miss L as a bump at the wheel
Mr A
Looking forward to sharing in everyone else’s celebrations this week. Why not visit The Gallery where the theme is celebration.

Mr G is Two

There are two wonderful years crammed into that space.  I love you Mr G.  Our Mountain Goat.  Little Am Dram.  Happy Second Birthday!
Two years ago today we were crying with relief when the consultant said I had no option but a c section. At long last we were going to meet you.  My little boy.  So tiny next to your big sister.  A little frog on Daddy’s chest, you slept through most of 2008.
One year ago today you took your first step, at Centre Parcs. You to hit the milestone on your birthday and I missed it. 
Since then you have found words, cars, trains, kisses, cuddles, climbing, keeping up with the big kids, not sharing, singing, dancing, television, ‘reading’, knives and forks, digging, sliding, climbing, swinging, shouting, tickling, making friends, playdough, scribbling, painting, mixing, bags, aeroplanes, yes, no and a very special bear.
Today, who knows, but I know would like one of your ‘isses and cuggles’ please.
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The joy of backseat drivers

I managed to ‘catch’ the wingmirror whilst reversing out of our drive this week.  It’s a tight manouvere, onto a busy road, the hedge needs cutting, the kids were yabbering, we were running late.  I was quite proud of having had had this car a whole year without even a scratch.

Miss L had three comments:

Mummy you have broken the mirror.
Mummy is this your car or Daddy’s?
Mummy you shouldn’t have done that.

You have to love them. I bit my tongue, gaffa taped the wing mirror back on, and got us to swimming on time.  So at least I have something to be proud of.

The Gallery: Black and White

The Gallery at Sticky Fingers has the theme of  black and white this week.  Apart from my wedding pics, which I didn’t take, I have very few.  Silly because I love black and white photos.  Today Mr A texted a picture of the snow in Norway, where he is with work.  

     ‘When will it snow here?’ said Miss L. 
     ‘Maybe around Christmas’ I said. 

Later I saw via twitter, that snow is indeed forecast in the East of the UK!  In honour of that here are the snow capped trees and plant pots of my parent’s garden earlier this year. Not a black and white photo but a black and white world.

And just to make my picture look more professional, here is Mr A’s shot of Oslo.  It’s a family tradition that when he is away with work I send lots of carefully considered pictures of us having fun and we get one blurry picture from his hotel room in return:

Exciting eh?  
Are you looking forward to snow where you are? I’m looking forward to my wander round The Gallery this week. I’m thinking black and white, arty glasses, a glass of red wine, long scarf, cigarette in a holder…

M6 theatre Sunflowers and Sheds

I love taking my two to the theatre. Theatre is my thing, I studied it at uni and taught it in secondary school until I had kids. We have discovered some seriously clever children’s theatre out there.

Today I took Miss L to see Sunflowers and Sheds by M6 theatre company at the Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham. It did us both the world of good.  Sitting in a darkened room for an hour while we both sat spellbound. I didn’t realise how much I needed that.

Today, even though I say I love theatre, it was a real effort to leave the house.  I had a little Prosecco hangover after celebrating a good friend passing her driving test.  I also had a parenting hangover after a week on my own with the kids.  I was beginning to feel like I had lost myself in the mists of motherhood again.  But I am so glad we went.

The moment Miss L slipped her hand into mine in the car park and started bouncing with excitement I perked up. My head’s been so full of those irrational niggling doubts about my parenting this week, but hearing her say ‘We always go to the theatre it’s exciting’,  reminded me I am sharing something very special with her, my thing, my passion. (Mr A is currently sharing his with her, teaching her how to use the Nintendo DS).

She also told me a story in the car, and stories are another passion of mine. I’ll admit, like many parents I am sure, I don’t always have the patience to tell kid’s ones. Those times where I have made up a story when I am trying to drive or make dinner, seem to be paying off though.  Miss L’s was a good story, The Tiger Who Came for Tea meets the Alexander family meets Harry and his Bucketful of Dinosaurs.

So Sunflowers and Sheds. It was beautiful. Written for my mood today.  Full of reminders to appreciate beauty, magic and friendship. A old man befriends a Russian girl on the neighbouring allotment and the friendship gives him the courage he needs to make a change in his life. It really proved that children’s theatre doesn’t need to involve cartoon characters, puppets and silly songs. Although that can be fun, but nowhere near as nourishing to the soul. Miss L enjoyed it too, especially the music, friendship theme, the flowers growing in wellies, the russian dolls and the glitter ball.

Pictures by M6

Its heading to Runcorn, Brighton, London and Birmingham next.  Suitable for 4+.  Click to catch the magic!

GIVEAWAY – Baby’s Very First Touchy-Feely Christmas Book

The good people at Usborne sent me a copy of Baby’s Very First Touchy-Feely Christmas Book. At first I was going to let Mr G have a look, but he has a whole stack of Usborne ‘That’s not my…’ books, which at the moment he likes to pile up and stand on to try and escape his cot.  So on health and safety grounds I am going to share the magic and give it away.

When he is not using them as an escape mechanism, Mr G still loves his Usborne books.  They have mouse on every page and he likes to tickle me and try to say ‘where’s the mouse’, just as I have done, every night since he was about 5 months old.  I am trying to encourage him to enjoy books with a few more words.  He’s just not a baby anymore ‘big sigh’.  Usborne do have a whole host of  ‘Christmas Crackers’ for children of all ages.  I like the sound of 1000 Christmas Stickers for Miss L and Noisy Touchy Feely Santa for Mr G.

Baby’s Very First Touchy-Feely Christmas Book has all the familiar Usborne baby book traits of big pictures, lots of colour, high contrast, things you can touch, with the added loveliness of Christmas.   In the midst of the toy overload that is Christmas, I think books make excellent presents.

I have ‘interesting’ memories of my two’s first Christmases, Miss L raged all day at being taken away from home, passed round the family and surrounded by chaos.  Mr G slept all day and missed most of his.  However, both received Usbourne board books amongst their first Christmas presents, which have given us many happy memories. 

Do you know a new baby who would like this for Christmas?  To enter please follow my blog and leave a comment below.  Miss L will do the draw on Weds 1st Dec.

For extra entries you can:
  • Follow me on twitter @Aresidence (one extra entry)
  • Tweet something along the lines of ‘I have entered the @Usborne baby book giveaway @Aresidence‘ (up to three entries, 1 per tweet)
And please take more photos than I did of baby’s first Christmas.  I thought I had loads… 

Mr G’s first Christmas – one is not amused at being awake

Miss L’s first Christmas – ‘Grandad it’s a madhouse in there!’

This is a sponsored post…but Usborne is a tried and tested brand in our house.

Thirty three years later

I love Tara’s Gallery prompt this week.  To recreate an old photo.  I have been trying to get my Dad on board with a gallery post for a while as he takes great photos.  So here is my mum with her grandson Mr G, taken by me.  And here is me and my mum back in 1977, lost in a forest in Northumberland, whilst on holiday, as taken by my Dad.    Posted by Picasa

My dad is definitely the better photographer.  I took mine really quickly, just because I saw the original picture unfolding in front of my eyes.  The strange thing was I had convinced myself that in the original photo I was on the right side.  Funny how time plays tricks on your perception.  Almost like I was seeing the picture as a mirror image, from the baby inside it.  I was a bit gutted when my dad emailed the pic to me this morning and I saw I had got it wrong.  But then I like the mirror image effect. In Shakespeare’s words (forgive me I used to be a Drama teacher) ‘to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature’.  I hope I look this gorgeous in 33 years time.
I won’t tell you how long it took me to work out how to stick the two pics together, but I will say I have discovered the joys of Picassa collages. Huge thanks to Sarah at Catching the Magic, a beautiful blog you must visit.  Another new skill…
Enjoy your trip round the gallery, I am really looking forward to this one. 

Thoughts on starting school

Miss L:  I am going to school.  I am excited.  At nursery they say to me ‘L is going to school’.  They will miss me at nursery.  I am going leave.  I think everyone will miss me at nursery.  I need blue for my painting mummy.  What happens if I add this and this and this?  If I mix it what will it change to?

Big gulp, eyes well up.  How did we get here so fast?  Very excited though, she is going to love school, and she’ll be so ready for it.  Still, ten months to go.  Hope the conversations continue to be as chirpy as this big smily painted face.  It’s an alien by the way.

Blog hop – kettle’s on!

Welcome!  Whether you have found your own way here or come via the BMB blog hop I hope you had a good journey.  I didn’t want you to hop all the way over here, just to hear me say I’d joined the blog hop.  I made a cuppa and left out some biscuits, please make yourself at home, have a rummage.

I was going to find this picture on the internet, but they were either too posh or too bland so here is the real thing instead.  You’re in luck my mother in law brought us a box of millionaire shortbread at the weekend.

So would you like to hear what made me giggle yesterday?   I was watching an advert for Chanel aftershave, you may have seen it at the weekend.  Gorgeous chiselled man in a press conference?  French actor Gaspard Ulliel.  Directed by Martin Scorcese so it’s all moody blue undertones.  Music by Rolling Stones so it’s all very sixties.  Flashback sequence where he toys with two different women.  And then at the end, in a gravelly French accent he announces to the waiting press conference:

Ullier:   [Close Up]  I’m not going to be the person I’m expected to be any more.’

High angle shot.  We see the walls surrounding the press conference fall down.  Ullier walks away.

And I turned to my husband and I said ‘I’m going to try that.’  (The line not the aftershave).
‘Me too’ he said.  And we laughed.  And we came up with silly scenarios where we would deliver this line in a gravelly French accent.  Me with the kids at breakfast, him in the board room. 

And in case you missed it, because it it is a rather beautiful piece of advertising and *ahem* Mr Ulliell and his friends aren’t bad looking either:

Oh and please say hello below, so I can hop over to you! And click below to find the other wonderful blogs to hop onto:

Riots, rockets and bookselling

As I watched several thousand pounds of explosives artfully released into the November sky, to the soundtrack of classical music, oohs, ahhs and dad jokes from the audience, I had some interesting thoughts.  I was standing in a muddy field with Mr A, a few hundred revellers, a can of Fosters and a tray of chips.  Very glamorous.  It could almost have been our festival going days.  Maybe that’s what prompted my strange trail of thoughts.  Guy Fawkes.  This man who wanted to blow up parliament.  And it got me thinking about the times in my life when I have put a rocket up the backside of an establishment.  Topically, given this week’s student protests, it all started when I was a student.

When I was in sixth form I had my nose pierced.  Eventually after a few months of arguing with my head of year about it, I swore at her.  I was suspended.  It all got a bit mixed up in school gossip, in the student’s minds I was suspended because of the nose ring.  There was huge unrest.  Before I knew it, my fellow sixth formers had staged a sit in.  Occupations are a long established tradition in the student movement that should be defended.  My fellow students then called the local paper.  I made the front page.  Star pupil gets suspended. The Manchester Evening News even came to interview me.  Not much changed, except a new rule was added to the school’s list – ‘no nose piercings’.  But I had stood up to authority.  It was a rite of passage.

At uni I posed a brief challenge to the theatrical establishment with a seriously strange and up its own backside piece of postmodern drama that revolved around filming the audience and representing them as a piece of art.  It sounds indulgent now, but it gave me a passion for the arts. And when you go on to teach, and you take that passion into the classroom and fire up young minds with the arts, now that’s exciting. As a teacher I battled to give my students fantastic opportunities and get them results. 

But erm, since then I think I have been severely lacking in the sending rockets up the backsides of establishments department.  My battles of late have been horribly domesticated, like the four month struggle to convince Miele electricals that a fridge packing up after less than three years just isn’t acceptable. (A free replacement fridge freezer arrived yesterday – Miele you are wonderful).  Urgh, how did life get so safe?
So I send a symbolic rocket up the government on the 24th Nov , as part of the planned national scale student protests, for the right to an affordable university education (lit with due care for the health and safety of others, aka a peaceful protest). I never paid off my debt from training to teach, even after seven years, mainly because I lived in London and teachers don’t earn that much.  I will one day.  It will eat into the pension I will be trying to catch up on paying into, after my time out of ‘work’ as a mum.  My debt is manageable, but the proposed cuts aren’t.  I don’t think university can be free, but it should be accessible to all. 

I’m a bit fed up too, about the complaints about tax payers paying for ‘mickey mouse’ subjects in universities, yes we need scientists and doctors, but we also need artists, filmmakers, web designers, tv producers, writers, poets, actors and playwrights.  So a huge rocket in support of the arts, because a little investment gives great returns and we should never forget that.

Rant over.  Where would you send your rocket?  Amazon perhaps? (Don’t get me started!)

A dog is for life not just for Christmas, unless… its Kackel Dackel

My brother just put this on my facebook wall, asking if I wanted one for Christmas.  I am not sure if he meant me or the kids.  It definitely appeals to the sense of humour me and my brother share(d) as kids.  But I can see my kids would love it too.  Today has been a tough one, this made me really properly chuckle. 

I have such fond memories of growing up with my brother and toilet humour.  We giggled for a whole week about biscuits called ‘Bums’ on a holiday in Denmark. Now we’re debating whether its better in German or Dutch (this is great, I feel 7 years old again).  What do you reckon?