Thanks to Ezra’s nursery day falling on Bank Holiday Monday we were able to swap him to Friday this week. Joe decided to take the day off work so we headed out into Kent with Violet and Felix. Out of our children Ezra is the trickiest to take on a day out at the moment. He still needs a pushchair but prefers to walk at his pace, which involves him ambling along in a world of his own and then wanting to get on Joe’s shoulders! I think he needs another 6 months and then he’ll be out of the buggy and able to walk much bigger distances. He also struggles to sit down at a restaurant for a whole meal (understandable for a 2 year old) so visits involve him getting up and down like a yoyo, running off and bickering with Violet. With him having a fun day at nursery we took the opportunity to visit the Riverhill Himalayan Gardens in Sevenoaks.

Well, we picked a wonderful day to visit. The sun was shining and the flowers were truly at their best. Earlier in the Spring the hillsides are carpeted with bluebells but now in June the Azaleas and Rhododendrons are blooming.

Stunning!

We explored the paths snaking up the hillside. Constantly finding new spectacles of colour around every corner.

Violet did really well with her walking and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the gardens.

We found our way to the maze. Violet lead the way and found her way to the centre! I was really impressed as this isn’t a small maze!

We then went to the playground where there’s a tall swirly slide, numerous things to climb on and a den made of sticks! After a play we finally climbed up the last bit of the hill to the viewing point.

It was so worth the climb! There are a few picnic tables and some benches so next time we will bring food with us.

We took in the view and had a breather before heading back to the car. We could have happily stayed longer as there’s a cafe and several activities for children. But we had a booking at one of our favourite pubs for lunch. It’s a little tradition of ours to bring the baby in our family to the White Hart pub in Sevenoaks when they can sit in a highchair so they can join in the meal with us. It was Felix’s turn and he absolutely relished the opportunity to scoff his meal and charm the staff.

We had such a super Friday and plan on visiting the Riverhill Himalayan Gardens for much longer next time.

One of our favourite local places to visit with the children is Coolings Green & Pleasant Nature Trail in Knockholt. It’s a wooded area with loads of places for children to explore and discover, and has an amazing cafe and shop!

We arrived there at 9.15am bright and early to make the most of the quiet and having the place to ourselves. It costs £3.50 for adults and under 5s go free, so a very cheap day out for us! The first thing to see are some wobbly mirrors and a gigantic pig!

Both kids loved the mirrors; discovering how different they looked if they stand close or far away. The pig was snoring peacefully in his shelter!

Then we walked down to see Barry the Goat. There are some fruit and vegetables growing, plus a minibeast area here and we always make sure we say hello to the scarecrows. Violet calls them Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay from the Julia Donoldson story.

The paths are clearly defined and have wood chippings down which make it easier to push a buggy round and also a softer landing for the inevitable tumbles!

We then walked into the wooded area where there is a wallaby enclosure. They have loads of space, shelter and an obsticle to climb on. We were lucky enough to see a wallaby really close up and there were also some super cute joeys!

The last time I went was New Years Eve. Ezra wasn’t walking yet so he didn’t get the whole experience of touch, feel and explore. Joe has been with them this summer but for me it was fantastic to be here with 2 fully mobile and adventurous children!

We made our way to the chickens and huge cockerel! Violet is fearless of all insects and animals so it’s been surprising to see that Ezra is actually really wary of them. He hasn’t ever seen any of us show fear so this is his natural reaction. He wants to like them but as soon as animals come close he becomes apprehensive. So when the cockerel started crowing Ezra made it clear he wasn’t too happy!

We carried on to see the ducks!

There’s a little food dispenser here so for 20p we fed the ducks.

Next we went to see the new piggies. Previously I remember this area having a couple of huge pigs and you could buy food to feed them. They weren’t there any longer (wonder why…??) and instead we found 3 not so little piglets. They are called Porky, Percy and Podge. Violet enjoyed working out who was who. Ezra watched a little awe-struck!

The next bit is one of my favourites; 3 different wooden houses. We always play icecream shops here, hide and seek and a new game for us, reenacting the story of 3 Little Pigs.

Next on our trail was the bird hide. Keeping Ezra quiet as we approached the hide wasn’t easy but we got to see loads of beautiful little birds feeding and also a cheeky squirrel (check the tall pole the photo!)

Finally before lunch we went to explore some more hidy-hole structures and the tree tunnel. Violet played space rockets here.

After all the running around both kids were ravenous so we made our way back to the shop/cafe. Lunch is served from 11.30am and we were a little early so we opted for scrambled egg on toast, a sausage sandwich and a kiddy lunch box. Violet chose all of the things for her lunch box, I really like this as often in cafes they are pre-packed and the choice is only between a ham or cheese sandwich.

Ezra inhaled his scrambled egg and toast (it was quite astonishing how much he gobbled up!) and then they went off to play with the Brio train set. In the past Violet has only ventured over if there were no other children playing with it, but with her brother by her side she felt much more confident.

They played so sweetly with the trains and I got to have a peaceful 10 minutes to sit and rest. Being so pregnant is definitely starting to take a toll. I feel like I have had more energy in this pregnancy than the other 2, however at almost 7 months gone I do think my body is starting to ask that I slow down a little!

Once the kids had finished playing we gathered up our things and headed back to the car. Ezra promptly fell asleep on the journey home and I think Violet was close to nodding off also.

We love our visits to Coolings Nature Trail. It’s got so many things for people of all ages. It’s a learning experience and also somewhere to get lost in imagination and adventure. As Violet grows we will read more of the info posts so she can learn more about the animals and plants.

Have you visited Coolings before? What did you think? Are there any other great places to visit locally?

Yesterday was our second wedding anniversary.  Without a doubt 18th January 2014 was the best day of my life and I don’t see any way of topping it.

 

Joe and I said ‘I do’ at Cooling Castle Barn in Kent.  A series of interconnecting barns and castle turrets on the drive make this place quite magical.

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I clearly remember every detail of the day… I stayed at a local B&B the night before with Violet, my parents and in-laws.  Hair and make-up arrived in the morning and it was a sudden frantic bustle of rollers, brushes, pins and powders.

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Time started to run away with us and at midday we finally piled everything into the cars and sped off to the venue.

 

Butterflies were kicking in but my main concern right then was that I was half an hour behind schedule and still in my normal clothes!!

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Once we made it to the venue guests were arriving and I had to sneak into my room.  I didn’t have a bag or dress on me, just myself, my maid of honour and Violet who had filled her nappy.  The photographers were tapping their watches but all I could think about was that I needed to change a nappy.  Frantic phone calls to my mum who for some reason had ended up with the nappy bag were made and eventually I was just ‘normal mummy’ again but with make-up, hair and pretty nails!  Phew!

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Once that minor hiccup was sorted, Caroline helped me into my dress.  It did feel absolutely wonderful to put that dress on, it will always be the best thing I’ve ever worn.  It fitted beautifully, pulled me in at all the right places and made me feel incredible!

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After a few photos we walked over to the barn.  The weather was perfect, the sun milky in the sky and no rain.  The Master of Ceremonies was a lady and she talked me through everything that was about to happen.  In truth I felt like I was starting to have an out of body experience by this point but Violet was a wonderful grounding force.

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I could almost deflect my nerves by making sure she was ok and fussing over her rather than feeling like everyone was fussing over me.  Once Caroline, my dad and I had been to see the Registrar and complete the last formalities we stood in the upstairs corridor.  We were ready.  Nothing else needed to be planned or sorted.  All I had to do was go and get married!

 

The music began and I had an instant surge of emotion.  Caroline spoke to me calmly while I tried to compose myself.  Then we walked in.

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I gripped the bannister as I walked down the stairs.  “Please don’t trip” I was telling myself!  This photo is very special to me as on the window ledge you can see a photograph of my dear grandparents.  They were everything to me and would have loved to have celebrated our day.  I glanced over to the photo as I walked down the stairs.

As I started to walk down the aisle I saw so many faces of our friends and family.  Everybody was here to celebrate with Joe and myself.  As I looked down the aisle I saw Joe smiling.  I had to keep a lid on my emotions!  We were ushered onto the platform and the ceremony began.

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Violet could not have been sweeter, she toddled around looking at the decorations, was lured back to my mum with the promise of chocolate buttons but ultimately came to sit at our feet as we said our vows.  It was so poignant to have our daughter at our wedding.  Perhaps we had not done things in the most traditional order but I can say that I will forever feel honoured that our first born witnessed our special day.  Once we were married and had signed the register we walked out to have a brief moment to ourselves and then some photographs.

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The rest of the day was a wonderful amalgamation of dancing, food, photographs, drinks, laughter, friends, family and fun.

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1545771_10152259637411654_1508918045_nFor our first wedding anniversary we stayed at home with Violet and a 7 week old Ezra.  I got Joe a print of our first year together.  This year after work we stayed in again and indulged ourselves with Homeland on Netflix and Ben & Jerry’s icecream!  We will go out in a few weeks time for cinema and a meal.
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Being married is wonderful.  An absolute union and formalising our family unit.  I look back at our day with a smile and also wistfully wish I could fit into my wedding dress again one day!!!!

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My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

 

On Saturday it was Ezra’s first birthday. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling really emotional at the thought of him turning one! The baby of the family isn’t really my little baby any more! I can’t believe it’s been a year since we met him for the first time.

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The day started with a lay in for everyone! The kids didn’t wake until 7:45am! We came downstairs and there was a lovely pile of cards and presents for Ezra to open. However Ezra was far more interested in the balloons we had blown up much to Violet’s frustration! She was desperate to ‘help’ him yet he was rolling around on the balloons threatening to pop one! Eventually she coaxed him over and they made their way through the presents one by one.

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We had bought him some moccasin slippers, a toy tv remote, a Hatley fleece all-in-one, a shape sorter and 9 plastic bugs which can be joined up together. From friends and family he also received some stacking blocks, a jumper, abacus, mega bloks, a book and a remote controlled recycling truck! What an incredibly lucky boy to have so many people in his life thinking of him on his first birthday!

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After his nap we set out to Hayes High Street for lunch at our favourite café. The Java and Chai Tea Room is a wonderful vintage inspired café which now has a children’s room in the back. I just love this place. The owners are SO friendly and welcoming, in fact we go so often that they know us! In the back room there is a large play pen with foam letter flooring and loads of brilliant toys for under 3s. The room also has a beautiful large dolls house and brio train track. There’s also a small tv playing cartoons. I’m not a huge fan of kids watching TV or tablets during meals out however the room has so much to entertain them that the tv was largely ignored. We had such a lovely lunch and the kids played very sweetly.

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Next on our birthday agenda was a trip to the swimming pool. We have never taken Ezra swimming before so this could have gone either way! We went to Bromley Pavillion which we like because there is the main pool and then a shallow small pool alongside. Violet stormed into the little pool and immediately was full of beans and had the biggest grin on her face! She loved running and jumping through the water, going down the little slide and laying on a float while trying to kick her legs. It was so wonderful to see her feeling free and confident in the water. No fear. For Violet who naturally is a little nervy this was absolutely huge! Ezra was quite uncertain when we first got into the pool. He turned round and clung on to me with his (long, I’ve cut them now!) nails. He wanted to be held close, to get that reassurance and comfort. I could feel him physically relax, as I laid the back of my head on the ledge of the pool I allowed him to perch himself on my front and just look around at all the kids having fun. I had bought him an inflatable ring with a seat. We popped him into it and from that point onwards he was in his element. His feet could reach the floor and he was able to walk himself around the little pool and go where he liked. He smiled with confidence. Violet enjoyed pulling him around the pool away from Joe and myself. We kept a watchful eye on them but it was just so special to see them both go off together. I think Violet is really waiting for the day Ezra can walk steadily and follow her in the playground. In a few months I think he will.

I thought we would be in the pool for about half an hour. Well 90 minutes later we decided we better get out otherwise we would be late for dinner! Getting changed after swimming with kids feels like such a mission! Violet kept trying to look in the next door cubicle, the baby harness was broken on the chair so I had to just hold him once we were dressed and you never feel like you are dry enough! But we made it out and home in time. A quick dinner was followed by birthday cake.

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Today was perfect. A family day making normal things special and memorable. We celebrated a whole year of having Ezra in our family. Violet was so thoughtful about this being her little brother’s special day. She kept saying happy birthday to him, giving him kisses, showing him his new toys and overall she was just a top girl.

Ezra is my sweetest boy. Loving, affectionate, happy and cheeky. But we are seeing his changes as he leaves babyhood behind. He is learning how to show his frustrations and will roll onto the floor when he feels upset. He is trying to play more with his toys rather than just throw them around. He is watching his big sister and desperately trying to get involved. Violet is learning to include him a little.

These 2 kids drive me mad sometimes. I look at them and wonder how we are going to get through. But days like this are what we live for. When the every day is good, it is the best.

Happy first birthday Ezra x
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Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

It was my birthday at the weekend and seeing as the weather was gorgeous we took a trip to Hever Castle in Kent. Hever is the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and up until 50 or so years ago was still a private residence. Now it’s open to the public to have a good nosey!

We started off in the gardens. Manicured lawns which were off limits to us all. Violet was desperate to run on them but thankfully was so good and restrained herself. I could have imagined the disapproving looks at the curly haired 3 year old larking about on the grass. I’m so thankful she was in a very obedient mood that day! The boarders were stunning and the sun beat down so brightly; catching the morning dew drops like jewels. We found a secret garden with a pond in the middle. Violet had great fun pointing out the water snails, dragon flies and little fish. My pelvic floor got a good work out whilst watching her run SO close to the water’s edge. Violet isn’t the most coordinated and trips over anything so her taking a dip was entirely possible. We made it out of the secret garden without a mishap!

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Next we made our way towards the castle. When it comes to seasons I love Spring and Autumn. The dramatic changes to blossom trees in Spring and changing tree leaves in Autumn are so beautiful. The creeper making its way up the castle was flashing from summer green to vibrant red. We couldn’t take the pushchair into the castle so I wrapped Ezra onto my back, much to the delight of some American tourists who stopped to watch! Joe and I would have loved to have looked round more and read about the rooms in better detail but Violet was setting the pace. She was very keen to get to the turrets at the top (incidentally this isn’t possible) so we found ourselves speeding through. But it was still really interesting.

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Feeling peckish we walked over to the restaurant. The children shared sausages and mash, I had fish and chips and Joe had a burger. The food was really good and being able to sit out in the sun was bliss. I felt very lucky to be celebrating my birthday with my family and all of us being so happy.

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Once lunch was munched we headed over to the adventure playground. Both children loved going on the swings. Violet also went on the slides and took Joe into the kids maze. They came down the swirly slide together and thanks to the crazy rain we’ve had recently there was a booby trap puddle at the bottom of the slide. Joe saw it but couldn’t do anything to stop himself getting soaked – much to Violet’s amusement!!

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Our final stop was the main maze and archery field. Whilst Joe and Ezra watched people try and hit the targets, Violet and I went on a conker hunt. I LOVE conkers. We found so many and she collected them in her bucket to bring home.

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It was a mad dash to get back to the car before either child nodded off in the buggy. And before we had even driven out of the front gate, Ezra was snoozing.

All in all it was a perfect day. I couldn’t have wished for better for my birthday. We will definitely return and hopefully have more time in the castle!