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:

Prompt LIst (1)

Health · IVF · Trips Out

#Blogtober2019 – Day 23: Worst Weather

Living on an island, our lives are ruled by the weather, specifically the weather that impacts the running of the ferries that serve the island.

This affects everything, from the transport of deliveries onto the island, to being able to get off the island for shopping trips, holidays, and, you guessed it, IVF-related hospital appointments.

Laurie with cattle

With our first two fresh cycles, we were careful to schedule our treatment for the summer months to better avoid the disruption caused by bad weather. During a fresh cycle there can be appointments every other day to check blood levels, follicle growth and lining development, so you need to know that you’ll reliably be able to get to them. At the end of a fresh cycle you take an injection which gives you 36-38 hours before your eggs need to be collected; if you are delayed too long, the whole cycle could be cancelled.

For both egg collections, we booked a hotel on the mainland for the night before because nothing was going to stop us from getting to that!

When our first fresh transfer failed, we decided to throw caution to the wind and try another round during September/October. Ironically after 75% of our summer appointments had been subject to disruption on the ferries, only one single appointment was affected by a delay on the boats during that autumn round.

With Laurie’s round we knew it was the last one and we decided to go all out and start it in January; a risky move considering we’d previously written off the idea of doing any treatment between October and March because of the weather situation. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting them to be able to book us in when I called up that January. I was sure that with delays (and let’s face it, waiting for my body to do what it needed to do) that it would push us back into March. Instead we were having collection on the 13th of February after only a week of stimming injections!

I was certain that the weather would cause problems during that round. I was convinced that I would have to call the hospital up to let them know we couldn’t come in. Or that we’d end up having to get to the mainland by some roundabout route in order to get the meds that we needed.

As it happened, we ended up needing to go to the mainland almost daily during that last push towards egg collection. I remember feeling vaguely embarrassed as we travelled home from an appointment on the Friday and I called work up to apologise that I wouldn’t be in on the Monday as I’d be having my op and would want a couple of days off after to recover, and that was after barely being in during the week before as well!

Laurie mans the helm

I frantically checked the ferries and the weather forecast with each day as I tried to anticipate when we’d be needing to travel. I pretty much lived on hotel booking websites during that week.

And what do you know? On the day before egg collection, we got up intending to catch the first ferry off the island (8am on the weekend) and it was cancelled!

Even though we couldn’t check into the hotel until 2pm, we thought we’d make sure we got away on the first boat so that if there was any disruption, we’d have the later boats to catch.

And was it the weather that caused the problem?

Nope. One of the two ferries had broken down. And it had broken down where any replacement boat would need to dock to load and unload. So there was no option for travelling that way until they could get the poorly boat moved!

Thankfully there’s a smaller ferry which serves a different part of the island. So we took that, and had a two hour drive to Glasgow instead (not the most comfortable of journeys when your ovaries each resemble a large bunch of grapes). But we made it. And the weather was, for once, not to blame for the disruption!

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

Prompt LIst (1)

Has the weather played a part in disrupting your big plans? Or did you expect it to, then get a surprise when something else caused a problem instead?

Parenting · The Noodle · Trips Out

#Blogtober2019 – Day 22: Day tripping

This year we didn’t get to have a family holiday away together.

Laurence and I took a trip to Wales to visit family back in May. We have had a trip away for a family wedding when Laurie was four months old last year, but we’ve not had a proper holiday holiday together yet, though we’ve got one scheduled for next year now.

Instead of one big holiday, we’ve had lots of little day trips away. The plan was originally to do this through the summer instead of a summer holiday but it’s been such a good thing for our little family that we’ve kept going as we head through autumn and into winter.

I’ve got every Friday off, so we try to take a trip to the mainland every other week (with alternate weeks spent at home). I foresee that in the winter weather, when the boats are disrupted, we’ll have rather more days when we stay at home.

Laurence loves his trips out and they usually tire him out for the weekend; this weekend was no exception. We took another trip to Funworld in Greenock and I realised far too late that it was the last day of the half term break from school.

Laurie driving car

We were the very first ones in and for a little while I congratulated myself for making the decision not to change our plans. It was so quiet that Laurie had completely free roam of the place and didn’t have to worry about bumping into anyone or waiting for a turn on a toy.

That lasted for all of about twenty minutes and then the place just seemed to explode with sound and there were children everywhere!

Laurie in ride

We survived a whole hour and fifty minutes of our two hour slot before the spousal unit and I decided we couldn’t take it any more and packed up to go find some lunch (and a little bit of quiet). I wouldn’t say it put me off completely, but I’ll definitely be more mindful of local schools’ term times for our future day trips!

Laurie heading into Wean's World

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

Prompt LIst (1)

Where are your favourite places to go for day trips? Any hints or tips you’ve acquired along the way?

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 · 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?

Health · Parenting · The Noodle · Trips Out

#Blogtober2019 – Day 5: Something to eat

I saw a post on Facebook the other day which was along the lines of ‘adulthood is realising that you have to decide what to cook for dinner every night’. I think it stuck with me, because it’s true.

I’m very lucky in that Laurence is not an especially fussy child. There’s certain foods that he favours over others; mini cheddars will always be top of his list and given the option he’d probably eat them for breakfast, lunch and tea. He doesn’t seem to be especially fond of tomatoes, which isn’t a huge surprise to me since they make my mouth feel very uncomfortable (and I wonder if he experiences a touch of the same).

But one of those things that no one really mentioned when they discussed parenting stuff was the fact that you have to come up with meals to feed the child. Every day!

Laurie eating chicken ball

I feel the need to be slightly more varied in Laurie’s diet than I would be with my own. I’d happily eat spaghetti, meatballs and cheese three times a week, but I’m fully aware that my son needs foods with a little more nutritional value than that. So since having him, I probably eat a little more healthily than I did before.

I also cook more too.

And I’m not a cook!

But there was something about realising I had to provide for this little person that made me look up things like ‘how to make sweet potato fries’ and ‘healthy biscuits’ and various other things. I’m embarrassed to admit how many attempts it took to get the perfect soft boiled egg for him!

I cook. But I don’t love it.

Since having the boy, I have to admit, we eat out rather a lot more than we did pre-child. This is mainly because we wanted to get the little man plenty of experience of eating out, so he got the hang of how to behave while we were in restaurants and cafes. It’s also because we take him on lots of days out and while taking a packed lunch is practical, we live on an island so the variety of places you get to eat in the city means a meal out can be a bit of a treat.

Laurie eating ice cream

I like to think that we’re giving the Noodle opportunities to expand his pallet but he’s a typical 20 month old right now. I think the following points sum him up quite well:

  1. Cheese is life.
  2. Mini cheddars are basically cheese and crackers smushed into one and are therefore like cheese but better.
  3. Orange segments are somehow addictive; he can’t just have one.
  4. If the same item of food is on the toddler’s plate and someone else’s plate, the piece on the other person’s plate is vastly superior to their own.
  5. If all else fails, the labrador will eat it.

As much as I try to keep giving him plenty of variety, and give him a graze plate each date with lots of different tastes and textures, I can pretty much guarantee that he will eat the cheese or mini cheddars, he will inhale the orange segments, he will beg toast fingers off of my plate while ignoring those on his own, and even if I think I’ve made the best plate there could ever be, he’ll still want to feed half of it to Tara!

And I guess that’s just life with a toddler. I’m pretty sure that in the future we’ll have fussy phases where he wants to eat nothing, phases where he’ll request foods only to turn his nose up at them once they’re prepared, and phases where he only wants sugar.

I’m pretty certain I can ride all of those out.

I just need to get better at figuring out what to do for tea each night!

This blog post is for day 5 of the Blogtober 2019 blogging challenge. See my prompts below:

Prompt LIst (1)

How do you decide what to cook for tea each night? Any tales of feeding toddlers (or humans of other ages)?

Parenting · The Noodle · Trips Out

Visit to Funworld, Greenock

For the longest time Funworld in Greenock was this mythical place to me. My friends and colleagues spoke of taking their children there but what it was actually like was unknown to me. We drove past it occasionally, but not having a small person of our own to take there, it remained an enigma. I knew very little about it, besides the fact that it’s a soft play place.

When we took the Noodle there for the first time right before he turned one, it was as much to give me the chance to see what all the fuss was about as it was for his benefit.

Our original plan for the Friday when we took him to Funworld was actually to return to the Sea Life Centre at Loch Lomond that we visited last year, but we decided we wanted something a little cheaper to save some funds for an upcoming trip to Heads of Ayr Park instead. Funworld seemed like a great (and cheap) alternative.

We were able to catch the bus from the stop at the ferry terminal which dropped us at Eldon Street, right outside Funworld. The last time we went, we took the car, but using the bus this time has proved that’s unnecessary and it’s a lot more cost efficient to use the bus (not to mention environmentally friendly).

We arrived at Funworld a little before 10:30am. If you have a toddler and arrive before 11am during term time then you get a free drink and biscuits with your entry fee; last time we went Laurie wasn’t yet walking so he got in for free and we paid £1 for each of the three adults. This time he cost us £5.35, bringing our total cost of entry to £7.35. With this he got two hours of play, along with a coffee for his dad, a tea for me, a juice for Laurie, and three biscuits between us.

 

Once inside, there’s an area with ample seating, a large play frame in the shape of a pirate ship and slides for the older children, an under-3s play area, a cart track, a couple of inflatables, and an area called Wean’s World with dress up and imaginary play areas. There’s also a reasonably priced cafe where you can claim your free refreshments with your entry ticket and even get a cooked meal as well. The venue has free wifi as well, so you can share your fun with everyone on your social media, or crack on with some work or studying while the kids play.

Wean's World Sign

Within minutes of arriving, we were all shoeless, in our socks and in the under-3s play area. There was one child there who was younger than Laurie and several who were older; I suspect that at least one of them was at the upper limit for playing in the under-3s area and I did have to pull on my Mama Bear voice and sternly ask one of them to stop throwing ballpit balls around because one of the littler ones could get hurt. Aside from that, it was wonderfully quiet.

We went on the first Friday back at school for most of the local schools, meaning it was very quiet; quieter than when we went back in February. It meant that Laurie basically had the free run of the place. I don’t think he had to share Wean’s World with anyone the whole time we were there and at times he was the only child in the under-3s area.

 

I was sure that this time around he would be all over the climbing frame. He was quite interested in it last time but was too small to be able to climb himself. Right now he seems to spend all his time climbing on the sofa, the stairs, the bed, the stairgates, and anything else he can scramble up or heave himself onto.

He went on the climbing frame once. I lifted him up onto the first level and he climbed onto the second, giggled at me through the netting and then decided to come down. He point blank refused to go up it again. I got him to explore underneath it once, then he burst into tears and crawled away. I suspect the whole place was a little overwhelming to him, hopefully with more visits it’ll feel more familiar and he’ll be more inclined to actually play on the soft play equipment.

Laurie in ride

 

As before, he loved the ballpit and spent a great deal of time collecting the balls that other children had thrown out to put back into it. It was quicker work now he’s walking (compared to trying to do it on all fours as he did six months ago). He also loved the toys. The first thing he went for was the pink version of the babywalker we have at home, to which his dad quipped “we didn’t bring you all this way to play with toys you’ve got at home!” Laurie also enjoyed playing with a little glockenspiel, shopping baskets and a push along elephant toy.

 

I did notice a slight difference between our visit this time and the one earlier in the year; at the start of the year the toys with batteries worked. This time there were several toys with buttons to press that did nothing. I suspect that Funworld is maybe getting to grips with the aftermath of a busy summer holiday period.

There also seemed to be slightly less in Wean’s World, I couldn’t tell you exactly what was missing, but the little imaginative play areas seemed slightly emptier than when we were there before. The construction site seemed to have everything, but one little area just had a toy kitchen and another larger toy, but no utensils or toy food which they had there before.

Wean's World Toys

I imagine that it’s a bit of a job to stay on top of what’s working and what’s needing replaced and after the school holidays this is probably the time when things start getting reorganised. I’m sure if we go there again in another month or so, things will look different again.

At the moment we venture off the island every two weeks, but as the weather gets worse and the ferries become more unreliable we’re aware that we might not be able to go so far afield. I suspect that Funworld will become a regular destination; it’s far enough away to feel like a day out, but close enough to home that it’s not a problem if we need to leave early.

Laurie heading into Wean's World

 

You’ll probably see more photos and blog posts about our visits here in the future.

I didn’t receive any compensation for this review; we took the Noodle to Funworld for a day out, had a great time and I just wanted to share.

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.

Parenting · The Noodle · Trips Out

The Day Out That Wasn’t

Do you ever have one of those days where everything that can go wrong does?

A few weeks ago, we had one of those days.

Living on an island, it can be easy to feel a little hemmed in at times. I guess that’s part of the reason we need to escape occasionally. I’ve got every Friday off work, so every other Friday we catch a ferry and disappear to the mainland for the day. This particular day the plan was to disappear to Inveraray and visit the jail.

As you can probably guess from the title of this blog post, that did not happen.

It didn’t even really start on the day of the trip to Inveraray. It was the day before when things started to take a pear-shaped turn.

I mentioned to a friend at work what our plans were for the following day; trip to the jail, visit the sweet shop, pick up some chips to eat down on the front. And she put a dampener on things by telling me it was forecast to rain. I shrugged it off. It might mean that we’d have to eat sitting in the car, but the jail would be indoors so we shouldn’t get too soggy. It’d still be a good day out.

That night we dropped our Labrador, Tara, off at the kennels and headed home for an early night, still planning all of the fun things we would do the next day.

The following morning dawned. As it was a day I didn’t have to be at work but we had somewhere to be, the Noodle really wanted to sleep in, because that’s just how toddlers work. I got him up and dressed and was just organising myself when the spousal unit came in to announce the top ferry was off.

Side note here: Our island is served by two ferries, the main one and a smaller one at the top end of the island. It’s a two hour drive to Glasgow from the top ferry and a twenty to thirty minute drive to Glasgow from the main one.

Apparently it was windy at the top end so the boats were off and weren’t going to be reviewed until 11am, far too late in the day for what we wanted to do. So we had a hasty change of plans to make.

Luckily the main ferry was running, so we had a quick scan down our list of places we hoped to visit and settled on the Transport Museum in Glasgow. It was wet, so something indoors seemed like the best option and if we caught the next ferry, we’d be there in plenty of time.

The crossing was uneventful. I wouldn’t even say it was rocky (and it doesn’t take much for me to say it’s rocky). On the other side we boarded the train, got comfortable and prepared for what we would do when we reached Glasgow (until the ticket guy came round we were still debating whether we would get the train through to Partick and make our way from there to the Transport Museum or get the train to Central and then catch a bus).

The hitch in the plan occurred shortly before the train was due to reach Port Glasgow. When it didn’t.

We stopped for a while. I was a little bit confused by this because it wasn’t along a line where we’d normally stop for another train to pass us. But Laurie was getting a little fussy (and being the awful mother I am, in our rush to get out the house, I’d forgotten to pack snacks, except I hadn’t, there were already some in the bag, making me a doubly awful mother because I did have snacks and didn’t offer them to him) so we were mostly trying to keep him distracted. Gradually this niggling feeling that we’d been waiting rather a long time began to sink in.

And it was at that moment that I saw a man talking to a woman at the other end of the carriage.

That man? The train driver.

The line was down up ahead and he was letting us know that we were all going to be heading back to Wemyss Bay.

So the Transport Museum was off the cards.

The bus into Glasgow takes about 90 minutes. Despite getting up at 6am, we still wouldn’t be arriving in Glasgow until about 12pm. We’d be wanting lunch and that would leave us with very little time to get out to and get round the Transport Museum before we’d have to do it all in reverse to come home.

There was a brief moment where we considered just getting back on the boat and coming home. But that would’ve been a waste of a day; we’d planned a day out and dammit we were going to have one even if it killed us!

So we caught the bus.

Laurie completely flaked out and slept pretty much most of the way into Glasgow, which I was grateful for. Meanwhile the spousal unit and I tried to come up with something fun we could do while we were out.

In the end we settled on paying a visit to the Oor Wullie sculpture that my work is sponsoring on the Bucket Trail (since if you took a selfie with it you could win a £50 Love2Shop voucher), eating Chinese food at our favourite all you can eat buffet place, and letting Laurie play in Hamleys.

We got utterly drenched going from the bus station to those places. It was chucking it down! The water was running down Buchanan Street like a river and I don’t think my trainers dried out until about the following Monday.

But we did have a lovely time in the end.

I got my selfie (and won the vouchers in the process).

We took Laurie to King’s Lodge Chinese Buffet which is where we went on our way home after many of our IVF appointments (so it felt surreal to be there with an actual real child after all that time).

And we let him spend an age in Hamleys, where he just wanted to play with a Trunki and a wooden mushroom.

By the time we got home we were wet and exhausted, but we’d made the best of what had been pretty much a disaster.

Sometimes the best family days out are the ones that don’t really go as planned.