Activities · Blogging · Parenting · The Noodle

#Blogtober2019 – Day 30: Nearly November

November is almost upon us and Blogtober is drawing to a close.

I’ve really enjoyed blogging every day, but I’m looking forward to dropping back to once a week next month. I’ve also found a whole bunch of new blogs to read and I’m planning on working my way through the Linky List at 3 Little Buttons to catch up with the people who shared their blogs there. I did start out well, reading and commenting on other people’s blogs, but then stuff got busy.

October saw my first TMA (that’s Tutor Marked Assignment, if you don’t speak OU) for the Latin course I’m currently studying. I got my results back on Monday and I scored 94% (I’m still kicking myself at the missed marks on one of the questions because if I’d just read the sentences to translate a little more closely I’d have got them all right).

The end of November brings my next TMA. It’s due right around the time we have family visiting as well, so I’m going to need to have a big push to get it completed and submitted so I can enjoy some family time.

November always used to be my NaNoWriMo time, but since having Laurie, I haven’t taken part. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and the aim is to write a complete novel in 30 days. I hope to take it back up again in the future (perhaps when I’m not eyeball deep in Latin cases, prepositions and declensions), but for now I’ll be on the sidelines cheering everyone else on.

What I will be continuing with from the time ‘pre-Laurie’ is our Not-Quite-Christmas Film viewing.

The spousal unit and I have amassed a vast collection of Christmas films over the years (it is our favourite time of year) so we used to watch them throughout December in the run up to Christmas. Then we ended up with so many that there weren’t enough days before Christmas to fit them all in, so we sorted out the ones which were Christmassy but didn’t have Christmas as the main point to them, and we watch those in December.

Laurie’s a lot more aware of what’s going on around him now as well, so I’m looking forward to the slow build up to Christmas with him. November will mean lots of organising of Christmas presents, planning things to do as a family, checking out Christmas events going on around us, sorting out Christmas books (I still need another nine to complete our advent countdown, then they need to be wrapped and labelled).

Laurie with shopping basket 2

At some point in the next month we have important things to work out, like what item of furniture do we remove from the living room to make the Christmas tree fit in? and how likely is the toddler to try unwrapping presents we put beneath the tree before Christmas Day?

But of course, first we have to get Halloween out of the way. I hope my little dinosaur has fun.

And then our countdown to the second Christmas as a family can officially begin!

This post is the penultimate one in a series for Blogtober 2019. You can see my full list of prompts below:

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Activities · Health · Parenting · The Noodle

#Blogtober2019 – Day 29: Feeling Crafty

I had big knitting plans when we had Laurie’s frozen embryo transfer.

I picked up a copy of What to Knit When You’re Expecting on one of our trips to Glasgow for a hospital appointment to pick up meds or check my lining or something. I envisioned myself knitting up little outfits or accessories through my pregnancy.

On the day I got my positive pregnancy test, I cast on for a cuddly panda for the baby, in light blue and dark blue (because, why not?), but very early on in the pregnancy I discovered that knitting (and pretty much any repetitive activity) made me throw up, so I couldn’t spend my time making a host of fun characters and outfits for my little boy.

In fact, the feeling of nausea during knitting was so strong, that it kind of put me off knitting for ages. I was able to get into it again when Laurie was tiny and could knit while he napped on me but as he got bigger, it got harder to coordinate baby, circular knitting needles, yarn, patterns and a breastfeeding pillow on my lap.

Laurie climbing

Now that Laurie is older, and sleeping a little more regularly, I’m able to knit a little more often. Mostly on an evening when he’s in bed, but occasionally he ‘helps’ or does the string equivalent of TP-ing my living room with yarn.

I’m yet to knit him anything he can actually wear, but that’s okay he’s got a bunch of relatives and friends who keep him well-supplied with knitted and crocheted jumpers. I’m more of a cuddly toy crafting mum (because when you make a mistake, it adds character), but that’s okay, he’s quite the fan of cuddly toys too.

Laurie at Tractor Show 1

But what about that panda I cast on for the day I found out that there was going to be a Laurie eventually?

I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s still in pieces in a bag in my craft cupboard. I think it’s still awaiting a tail or some other important panda body part. I was going to finish it for his first birthday… but I didn’t.

Maybe it’ll be finished in time for his second birthday.

Maybe.

This blog post is part of a Blogtober 2019 series of posts. You can see my full list of prompts below:

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Activities · Parenting · The Noodle · Trips Out

#Blogtober2019 – Day 27: Getaway

I have mentioned before the fact that this year we’ve not had a holiday.

Last year we went away together for a family wedding. Laurie and I have also gone away together to stay with family, but we’ve not done a break which is just the three of us. Yet.

We’re planning a holiday away next year.

Which means that I’ve got a little over six months to prepare for it. This sounds like a lot of time, but I have a horrible feeling that it’ll end up not being nearly enough time. I mean it’s too early to start packing yet, but there’s still a lot that will need to be done before we go.

Little things, like planning what we’ll take in the car to entertain the Noodle. When we went to Wales last year we broke the trip up with an overnight stay in a hotel halfway down the country (luxury of going away whilst on Maternity Leave, no need to worry about booking holiday days for time off), this time we’ll be doing it in the one because it’s closer, but that also means a day’s travelling to keep a toddler occupied through.

Laurie driving car

There’s figuring out where we’ll stop to take breaks along the way. On the one hand, we’ll be flexible and if someone needs a nappy change then you can bet we’ll be stopping at the next services. But if we’re just wanting a break to stretch our legs, then we’ll want to stop at a place that will be toddler friendly.

Then there’s the stuff to take to keep him happy while we’re away. We’re lucky in that he’s a fairly easy to entertain kid. But we’ll need to bring Peter Rabbit and probably Winnie the Pooh for bedtime. At the moment he’s got a very strong attachment to the panda I knitted him the other week. Should that go on the list? Or will he have moved on by the time we’re away? Will I think he’s moved on and then have to frantically knit a new panda when we arrive and he reveals that he’s not moved on at all?!

And there’s also sleeping arrangements to work out.

Laurie at Baby Sensory

It’s a caravan holiday which means that there’s not a lot of space in the bed. And we bedshare. I’m optimistically planning to take the bedguard from the side of our bed, but I suspect we won’t know who’ll sleep where until we actually arrive. Will Laurie be happy in his own mini caravan bed? Will he want to be with us when he’s in a strange new place? Shall I just boot the spousal unit into one of the twin beds and claim the double for the Noodle and I?

That’s one I’m not planning on even thinking about until we arrive and I suspect we’ll handle it the way we handle most other parenting dilemmas; what’s the easiest and most natural thing to do in this moment? It’s an approach that’s rarely failed us before!

The final thing I’m thinking of is what to do while we’re away? We want to find places that Laurie will enjoy visiting, we want to get a chance to rest and relax ourselves, and perhaps most exciting of all, we want to meet up with some of the people from the online baby group that I’m in, so we have to factor that in too.

Laurie enjoying swing

I don’t remember spending this much time thinking about the preparations for the last solo trip I took with the spousal unit. I was pregnant at that time and my biggest worry was having enough bags for throwing up into, and a big enough stash of Dandelion & Burdock drink and aniseed balls to suck! I knew that pretty much all I wanted to do when I arrived was sleep and avoid moving around too much, so this trip away with Laurence and his dad is an entirely different kettle of fish.

You can bet I’ll share all about it here when we return, but in the meantime, any hints and tips about travelling with a toddler will be greatly appreciated.

This post is part of a series for Blogtober 2019. You can see my list of prompts below:

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Activities · Parenting · The Noodle

#Blogtober2019 – Day 25: Counting Down

As of today we are just two months from Christmas. It suddenly seems so much closer than it did just a few days ago.

Christmas is my absolutely favourite time of the year. I love the whole build up to it, starting in about August with the kids going back to school, the leaves changing colour, the weather getting that little bit nippier. Then you hit October and there’s the rush of Halloween, Bonfire Night, Remembrance Day, and suddenly it’s time to crack out the decorations.

And I waited years for my own little family to share it with. The spousal unit and I started some traditions together. Our wedding anniversary is Christmas Eve, so we exchange a tree ornament as an anniversary gift; almost every decoration on our tree has a meaning behind it.

We also have roughly fifty Christmas films. So many that we have divided them into two batches; Christmas Films and Not-Quite-Christmas Films, and begin watching the Not-Quite-Christmas-Films in November!

Last year I came up with twenty four activities to do in the run up to Christmas (actually, I think it was more like thirty because I was allowing for some last minute substitutions) and put each one into a little Christmas stocking. We did a different festive activity each day in the run up to Christmas.

I planned to do that again this year, but the truth is, it took a bit of organising and there had to be some last minute substitutions because the original thing I’d planned to do ended up not being suitable. This year I decided I wanted to do a countdown that was a little more low effort.

That plan quite clearly backfired when I decided the simpler option was a book advent calendar.

Laurie at the library

Now I know you can buy these premade, but I decided to go about making my own one. The plan is to gather together twenty-four different Christmas books, wrap them or arrange them in a neat way, and select a different one to read each day from the 1st onwards.

We already had a few books in the collection and I’ve been keeping an eye out for more around the charity shops. In the last couple of weeks I’ve scored both That’s Not My Donkey and That’s Not My Reindeer. I recently took advantage of and offer in a shop and picked up another six brand new books for £10, plus another three secondhand ones. We’re now up to fifteen. I was only counting fourteen until I started writing this post and realised there was another one I’d overlooked!

By using books we already own, or which I can get secondhand or very cheap, it’s not going to cost too much to do. And I never begrudge spending money on books!

Laurie reading

I really can’t wait to for the countdown to Christmas this year. Laurie loves his books so much that when he realises we’re opening another one each day, he’ll be thrilled. And I don’t need much excuse to buy more books either, I’m looking forward to seeing what he thinks of what we’ve chosen.

This blog post is written as part of the 2019 Blogtober challenge. You can see my list of prompts below:

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Are you counting down to something important? How do you keep track of how close you’re getting to a special day?

Activities · Parenting · The Noodle · Trips Out

#Blogtober2019 – Day 19: The Best Day

The truth is, we have so many wonderful days together, both days out and days in, that it’s hard to say which is exactly the very best day of them all.

Perhaps our very best day would look something like this:

We’d wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day. There would be no disruption on the boats and we’d sit together excitedly planning our trip ahead. Laurie would probably have us playing musical chairs and would get to charm some ladies seated near us.

Our trip out would be to somewhere not too far away, but perhaps just enough of a distance to give Laurie a nap on the way. That way he’d be all full of energy and ready to go when we arrived.

Wherever we are going on our imaginary best day, we’d have a snack when we arrived; either something we’d brought ourselves, or something they could provide. This would allow us all to feel refuelled and we’d then head out to see the place we’d be spending the day.

Laurie eating ice cream

The place we would go to would have lots of things for Laurie to see and get involved with, like at the Science Centre. We would have things to look at and do as well, but it would be at a happy medium level where Laurie could get some benefit from the day as well. If there are staff standing by, they would be able to engage Laurie and draw him in to take part in activities or have a go at taking part. He loves being able to touch things or move things, especially if there are older children who are getting to be involved; he doesn’t seem to realise how much younger he is!

Laurie is massively into animals right now, so there would almost definitely be animals at this place we are visiting. Once again, he’d want to be able to get up close to them, talk to them and maybe even stroke one or two. If those animals were dogs, Laurence would be in his element. If there was an opportunity to give a rat a cuddle, I’d be in my element too.

Laurie mans the helm

Come lunch time and we would find a nice place to eat at our attraction. The food would be tasty and filling with plenty of choice on the menu (particularly the one aimed at smaller visitors). There would be lots of different seating options as well, perhaps highchairs for the teeny tinies and booster seats for the older ones who are getting far too long in the leg to fit many highchairs you get in restaurants. If there was an all-you-can-eat buffet option, we’d definitely go all in for that.

Laurie eating chicken ball

We would maybe spent the afternoon indulging in one of Laurie’s interests; perhaps looking at different vehicles, meeting some dogs, or getting to look at a massive pile of books. I’d definitely be in favour of those last two. It would’ve been a busy day by this point so a refuelling stop for some cake or biscuits wouldn’t go amiss either.

By this point we would need to be thinking about heading back, but perhaps we’d get to have a spot of charity shopping, or mooching round a secondhand bookshop on the way back. If we could all come away with a little treat, it would round the day off nicely.

Getting back to the ferry just as a boat is pulling in, rather than away, would allow us to finish the day without a long wait for the boat, and a smooth crossing would be an added bonus.

And then we’d be back home in time to pick up Tara from the kennels and grab a bite to eat, before snuggling up in bed with a movie (that we’d probably all fall asleep in front of).

Laurie burying daddy

The funny thing is, this day describes many of our trips off the island. It could be our recent trip to Funworld or to Ayr earlier in the year. It’s virtually a complete description of our trip to Heads of Ayr Farm Park last month (a trip that I’m yet to blog about). We’ve fallen into a good routine for our days out and it turns out that it’s making for some pretty good days out; no wonder it’s so hard to pick which of them is the best one!

This blog post is part of a series for Blogtober 2019. You can see my full list of prompts below:

Prompt LIst (1)

What would your best day out look like? Have you been lucky enough to experience it or is it still a pipe dream?

Activities · Parenting · The Noodle

#Blogtober2019 – Day 12: Today I made…

Today I made my son giggle when I got into the cot like he told me to (he then lay on his father’s side of the bed, so I think he was playing at being Daddy while I got to be Laurie).

Today I made my son so happy when I put on his welly boots and took him into the garden for a stomp in the wood chippings.

Today I made my son run up and down the living room which was all fun and games until he tripped over the rug and bumped his nose on the floor.

Today I made my son cry playing the aforementioned game.

Today I made my son laugh hysterically by pulling my arm up inside my dressing gown and then grabbing his hand when he reached into my empty sleeve.

Today I made my son come in from stomping around the garden (with his wellies on the wrong feet because he did it himself) with the promise of some Minion crispies.

Today I made my son upset when I wouldn’t let him help load the washing machine (that I’d already loaded with laundry).

Today I made my son excited when I invited him to press the start button on the washing machine because he loves to do laundry.

Today I made one arm, two eye patches and two ears for the little knitted panda that I’m making Laurie after he fell in love with one from the same pattern in a charity shop a few weeks ago and I still feel guilty for not getting it for him.

Today I made a bat with my son:

Things We Make

Excuse the potato quality photo. The lighting wasn’t great in the room and I had a toddler trying to share the camera with me.

Laurie and his dad painted the toilet roll tube earlier in the week. After a (very) long nap this afternoon, I cut out the wings, ears and a couple of different mouth shapes then gave Laurie a selection of googly eyes to choose from. He did the pasting and I helped him stick them on (apart from the ears which I did as he was losing interest by that point).

He now lives on top of the bookcase and is officially the first of our handmade Halloween decorations this year.

This blog post is part of a series in the Blogtober 2019 blogging challenge. You can see my full list of prompts below:

Prompt LIst (1)

What have you been making recently? Are you crafty at all?

Activities · Health · IVF · Parenting · The Noodle · Trips Out

#Blogtober2019 – Day 11: Let’s Go Outside

In 2016 I set myself a challenge of ‘walking to Rivendell’. Basically someone calculated the mileage covered in The Lord of the Rings when Frodo and the gang walk from Hobbiton to Rivendell (458 miles, if you’re curious) and I set out to do the same in a series of walks through the year.

Every time I went on a Middle-earth walk, I tracked it, until halfway through December when I completed my challenge.

I’d planned to do the next leg of the journey (Rivendell to Moria, approximately 340 miles to the Doors of Moria) through the following year. But things didn’t quite work out that way.

In the January we started our third (and final) fresh round of IVF. We had our egg collection halfway through February, I recovered from that and was just starting to pick it up again, when we hit April and we started preparing for the frozen embryo transfer round that brought us Laurie.

The hormones involved in IVF treatment can do funny things to your body; you can feel headachey, emotional, your uterus and ovaries feel different. Medications also have to be taken at specific times, which can be a bit impractical if you’re planning a quick two mile walk after work; one of the meds I was on required me to lie down for 20-30 minutes after taking it, meaning that 6:30am or 6:30pm activities were completely off the cards.

So walking didn’t happen much from April onwards.

After the embryo transfer on the 25th of May, I felt like I was made of glass. I’ve done transfers where I’ve rested afterwards and I’ve done transfers when I’ve gone on as normal; the ones where I’ve rested were the ones where I had the most success, so with Laurie’s round, I rested.

And then from June onwards I pretty much threw up until the end of 2017 (and then into the first month and five days of 2018 as well). Once I was about six or seven months pregnant we were able to take the occasional shuffle ‘to the bump and back’ (a family landmark down the road from our house). But other than that, my efforts to walk from Rivendell to Moria went sadly abandoned. Just as well I wasn’t the one responsible for getting a small gold trinket into a fiery chasm!

Laurie taking a walk

But now Laurie is definitely more mobile and a good walk tires him out and we live somewhere really beautiful, that we try to go for at least a couple of walks a week. The fact that the evenings are drawing in now means we’ll be a little more limited on our walks, but in the next few years I’m hoping I’ll get back into my walking again.

And maybe this time I’ll have a little travelling companion to walk alongside of me.

This blog post is part of a series for Blogtober 2019. You can see the prompts I’m using below:

Prompt LIst (1)

Do you enjoy spending time outdoors? Have you ever taken part in a walking (or other outdoor) challenge?

Activities · Parenting · The Noodle

A Boy and His Book

One of my greatest worries for my son was that he wouldn’t like books.

I realise that it probably sounds like a really silly and superficial worry for a parent to have about their child. In the grand scheme of things, whether or not a child likes books is a relatively minor thing. I mean, he’s perfectly entitled to like whatever he wants to. No pressure, he’s his own person.

But books have always been my thing.

I have a vague memories of a time before I could read. When I had It’s 8 o’clock memorised and could recite it as though I was reading the words on the page. I remember having to pick a book from the class library at infant school to show to my new teacher at the junior school and selecting the thickest one I could find (it had a floral print cover) because I was bored with the other books in the class and wanted my new teacher to know I was ready for something more exciting. I kept lists of my books, copied quotes from their pages, revisited them like old friends and stayed up far too late to read just one more chapter.

When I was in junior school we had a school-wide quiz for World Book Day and I answered dozens of questions for my team (which ultimately won). I later heard one of my teachers say that I was incredibly well read and I clung to that phrase as though it was the biggest compliment that could be bestowed upon me. Because it was. It probably still is.

Reading and enjoying books forms a huge part of my identity, and it was a love I hoped to share with my son.

As a tiny baby I used to sit breastfeeding and reading to him from whatever I was reading at the time. Together we shared Terry Pratchett and Dickens and J.K. Rowling, collections of essays, classics, trashy ebooks, and Open University course books. He would feed and sleep and I would imagine that somewhere in his brain he would absorb the words I read to him and they would seep into his heart through the blood I had had given him in the womb.

At first his feelings towards books ranged from disinterested to destructive. We kept saying gentle hands and stroking the pages the way we stroke Tara, our long-suffering labrador. We visited the library and borrowed stacks of books. We looked at the pictures. We read bedtime stories.

And somehow the books started to get under his skin the way that they had gotten under mine.

I can’t resist a bookish bargain and so when a friend of ours was selling a sizeable stack of Julia Donaldson books, I snapped them up. Amongst this selection was Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book. I don’t really know how it happened, but somehow it became the Noodle’s favourite book too.

Several months on and poor old Charlie Cook is looking rather battered and bruised. I don’t think that there’s a single page which hasn’t seen some sort of repair with a roll of tape. I’ve carefully lined up and taped in damaged pages, hoping to preserve the picture on both sides as best I can.

And we can recite that book off by heart, as I know my parents probably learned to do with my favourites over thirty years ago. It actually makes for an easy bedtime story; we lie together in the dark, taking it in turns to quote the pages that we can see without having them in front of us.

Laurie reading

There are times when I look longingly at the bookshelf full of books and wish he would chose another favourite, if only to give us a break from our dear friend Charlie. We’ve got other Julia Donaldson books he could chose, we’ve got Hairy Maclary, we’ve got books by authors I’d never heard of until recently and books I grew up loving and waiting to share with the little boy I never knew I’d have.

Sometimes Charlie Cook gets left in the nappy bag for a day, or forgotten in the bedroom when we get up in the morning, sometimes he’s tidied onto the bookshelf at bedtime and remains overlooked for hours on end. Sometimes other favourites supplant him for a little while.

Laurie and Daddy with their books

But he always comes out again, after a couple of hours, or a day.

And as much as I’d love to have a longer break from him at times, I don’t really want to.

Because it makes me so happy to see my little guy so engaged with a book. Because he turns the pages so eagerly, pointing out his favourite parts of the pictures. Because he likes to invite us to sit on the staircase with him to share the book.

I always wanted to foster a love of reading in my offspring and depriving him of his very favourite book couldn’t possibly help with that.

So we keep on revisiting that same story and characters, looking at the pictures and making up little actions or voices, because it’s my boy’s very favourite book.

Laurie reading Charlie Cook

Activities · Parenting · Trips Out

Five Tips for the Perfect Day Out

Since our day out to Inveraray was a complete disaster a few weeks ago, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks we’ve learned to make sure that we still have a good time, even when we can’t do what we planned.

1. Have a back up plan

When you’re planning a day out somewhere, always try to have an alternative in your back pocket, just in case you need it.

All sorts of things can happen to cause a hiccup in your plans; car trouble, weather, the place you want to visit being unexpectedly closed. Your back up plan doesn’t need to be a fully formed itinerary, just an idea of an alternative so that you can easily adapt to avoid cancelling your day out completely.

The spousal unit and I have a list of places, divided into ‘Public Transport’ and ‘Car’. The Car places require the use of the car to get to, while the Public Transport ones can be reached by bus, train or on foot. This means that when we need to change our destination at a moment’s notice, we can pick something that suits our budget and go on our way, rather than floundering for a replacement idea.

Laurie eating chicken ball

2. Think about food

Try to think ahead about where you will be eating because no one is happy when they’re hangry, especially not a toddler!

Obviously, if you might need to change your plans at the last minute, knowing where you’ll eat can be a little unpredictable. It’s easy enough if the place you’re heading has a cafe or somewhere to eat nearby, but some attractions have limited options, may be expensive or don’t cater for the whole family’s dietary requirements.

An obviously solution to this is to carry some snacks with you when you’re out. My Go To snacks for the Noodle are little boxes of raisins and cereal snack bars, mainly because they come in their own packaging so it doesn’t matter if they’re hanging around for a while because they’ll stay relatively fresh.

Make a point of refreshing the snacks you carry on a regular basis (I generally replace what’s in the bag every couple of weeks) and if your bag gets drenched in a downpour, soaking the raisins you didn’t realise were in there, take them out and bin them before they go nasty, or better yet, put them in something waterproof!

3. Consider how your littles will travel

The Noodle has four modes of transport; his pram, his buggy, the babycarrier and his feet (usually with his backpack reins on, in case he doesn’t want to hold our hands). Depending on where we’re going, we’ll select a different method of transporting him.

The big pram is good if we’re going somewhere on the train. It’s bulky, but gives us plenty of storage space underneath and if he wants to nap we can recline it. Now he’s 18 months, walking confidently and so very long, it’s not always the most practical option. It also takes up all of the car boot so we mostly use that closer to home now.

The buggy is lightweight and folds up, making it perfect for use on the bus. It doesn’t have a raincover though and so it’s not ideal when we get caught in torrential downpours.

The carrier is a ideal when we’ll be outside walking or somewhere that’s got lots to see at adult eye level. It’s a bit of a faff to keep lifting him in and out of it though, so it’s not so useful when he’ll want to keep getting down to interact with things.

And walking is great fun, plus it tires him out, but it’s not always the quickest way to travel, especially when there’s things to distract him. There’s also the safety aspect of being a toddler hanging around next to roads and trains.

Of course, sometimes we get it wrong and end up carrying him when we thought he would walk, or regretting our choice of wheels because the ones we brought aren’t suitable for the terrain, but a little bit of thinking ahead (and asking other people what they’d recommend for the place you’re visiting) can make all the difference.

Laurie driving car

4. Budget it

No one wants to put themselves in debt for a day out so think about how to make the most of your available funds for your trips. It’s easy to focus on entry costs for places and overlook the transport and meal costs, suddenly your day out that was only going to be a fiver each is looking more like fifty (or more).

We take a trip to the mainland every other Friday so we immediately have the ferry costs to factor in. To help balance that we try to avoid taking the car more than about once a month; we try to travel by public transport as much as we can to save the days out by car for when we really can’t avoid it.

You can save money by keeping an eye out for special offer days (if you’ve got small ones, term times can be better for some venues which has an added bonus of being quieter as well), student discounts, yearly passes (if it’s somewhere you go regularly you could ask for these as a birthday or Christmas gift) and visiting with a friend or local group and getting a discount can all help. We generally eat out when we visit places but bringing a packed lunch can save money (and is doubly helpful if there might be difficulty finding food that everyone will eat).

You could even set aside a little money each week or month in a ‘days out’ fund and plan your trips based on what you’ve got available. If your children are older you could involve them too, letting them keep track of what you’ve got saved and what their options are for places to visit.

5. Make fantastic memories

Regardless of how much planning you put into your day out, sometimes things will go wrong. Perhaps the ferries will be disrupted, perhaps the trains will go off, perhaps the perfect storm of delays prevent you from getting to the place you want to go.

You’ll absolutely be disappointed when that happens, and that’s okay. Acknowledge the fact that you’re sad about not doing what you’d planned, but then pick something else to do and enjoy it. Turn the day into an adventure. Take advantage of having time as a family and just talk or eat together, doing something a little bit silly or special.

There’s that saying about how it’s not the destination but the journey that counts and that’s probably true when you’re spending time with your family. Don’t make the day about the destination, make it about the time you’re spending together. At the end of the day, you can spend hours planning for the perfect day out, but all you really need for it is to be present with your offspring. Take some photos and write down some of the things you do so that you can look back on them in years to come.

Laurie in swing

Activities · Parenting · The Noodle · Trips Out

Mount Stuart Baby Sensory

Whenever I talk about the places I go with the Noodle, I inevitably have my partner in crime, the spousal unit, with me, but the fact is, he goes to plenty of places with the Noodle without me. I work four days a week at the moment, so the spousal unit and the Noodle probably have more adventures without me than with me.

I usually keep my eye out for things that I think Laurie would enjoy and hope that one of us will be free on the day that it’s on, so when I spotted that Mount Stuart were having a Baby Sensory session I knew that Laurie had to go to it, it was just a question of who would get to take him.

Last year they ran a similar session when Laurie was five or six months old and I was desperate to take him to it. Instead we had to pay a visit to the paediatrician so couldn’t go. As if I wasn’t crushed enough about having those paediatrician appointments, we had to miss something I so desperately wanted to take him to instead.

This year’s was like a second chance and the advert said for babies up to 18 months, meaning our little guy was right at the cut-off age, so next year he would be way too old.

Unfortunately, it was on a day that I was working and so I couldn’t go. I pretty much told the spousal unit in no uncertain terms that he had to find out if there was a space for Laurie to join in and that they had to go.

Luckily he knows better than to argue with me and there was a slot free, so they got to go! Both Laurie and the spousal unit had a fantastic time.

I’ll let him tell you how it went in (mostly all) his own words:

Me and little man went to the big house on Wednesday morning. (Mount Stuart House to be precise). We drove down to the big house in the Jaguar because it was raining so hard. Coming down in stair rods or raining cats and dogs. (Well it is the West Coast of Scotland: we do get a lot of rain).

We went in the main door to be greeted by two female representatives of the Estate. They made us feel really welcome. Another couple of girls were already there taking off their coats and getting organised.

After about 10 minutes we went up the stone stairs and into the main hall of the house where there was foam tiles, cushions and pillows, and blankets set out for us to sit down. Morven asked us to lie down and gaze up at the magnificent ceiling. It was just like looking up at the night sky – hundreds of stars. Beautiful.

Laurie at Baby Sensory

Next she told us a story about a desert and a fire. She had a pretend fire in the middle of the foam tiles and then brought paper embers around to us. Laurie loved them and gave some to one of the twin girls that was there.

Then Morven got some netting out and encouraged us to put it over our heads. We sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Other sensory activities included a piece of rock that sparkled when a torch was shone on it, a disco ball torch, a large piece of material with sparkling spots and some snuggly blankets. More music was played and we sang. Then we did a bit of dancing before there was an opportunity to have a little bit of a free roam of the hall. Laurie fell in love with a very old antique wooden chair.

We had a good hour before it was time to say our goodbyes and farewells and thanks for a fantastic time.

This was a free event put on at Mount Stuart House. We received no compensation for this visit, but enjoyed it and wanted to blog about our experience.