Tag Archives: family

Non Non: A dramatic tale of a Special Toy!

My children have never taken to dummies. Instead, they have attached themselves to special toys or comforters as they are often referred to. I wrote about Dylan’s comforter, Timmy the turtle some time ago, of their bond and the heart-in-the-mouth moments whenever Timmy went missing. Timmy is thankfully still with us, although now that Dylan is 5, he tends to stop at home thus minimising the chances of him going AWOL.

Non Non in full comfort mode

We are lucky that Jude has not one but two special toys. Teddy and Non Non. Teddy is a Kaloo bear given to him by his auntie when he was born. His cousin Nathan had the same bear when he was little so it was already well known to be a successful companion. We tried to give him a name – Dylan called him Charlie Blue. But Jude has always insisted on simplicity. Teddy. Non Non was originally called Dolly, which again was another name given by Dylan. The current Non Non is the third incarnation of similar comforters. Non Non is the sound Jude makes when he is snuggling it against his face. Again he came up with the name when he just started to point at it and say Non Non.

Non Non after a rescue from Morrisons

Thankfully Jude loves both Teddy and Non Non equally and absolutely. He is utterly devoted to both of them, so much so that he wants to hold one in each hand … all of the time. Sometimes, but not always we can get away with just one toy at bedtime. It is handy in that I can wash one, whilst keeping the other one on the go. Although having two is better than one, it is still a nerve wracking experience when one goes missing. We have visited Customer Services at our local supermarket to report either a lost Teddy or Non Non on more than one occasion. Thankfully (fingers crossed, touch wood), we have managed to keep a hold of both comforters over the past year despite Jude’s best efforts. He has a habit of chucking it on the floor and finding it funny. A couple of months ago he tried to throw Non Non off the top of Clitheroe Castle. Luckily it was such a windy day that it was blown back in his face!

Which brings me to another dramatic castle story. Before embarking on our journey back from Centre Parcs last week, we decided to stop off at Brougham Castle just a few miles down the road. As you can imagine, the boys LOVE castles. Dylan has been a fan for a while and now Jude has been bitten by the bug. It’s a 13th century ruin but with plenty of staircases to run up and down. I’m sure Adam won’t mind me saying that he isn’t the biggest fan of heights. But with children, needs must. So up we followed both boys up and round the winding staircases. I’ve no idea how high it was at the top, at least 4 or 5 floors high. Dylan and Jude loved running around, the adults less so. Needless to say Adam was happy when it was time to go back down.

  

After about 2 minutes of being on terra firma, Dylan announced he wanted to go back up to the top. Adam went up again whilst I stayed down on the ground with Jude. When they both arrived back down, we managed a few more minutes before Dylan wanted to pay another visit to the top. I offered to go this time much to Jude’s dismay. He proceeded to cry constantly whilst we were up in the tower. I remembered that I had Non Non in my bag and shouted down to Adam and suggesting I throw it down. Jude spotted it from a distance and the cries got louder, this time interspersed with shouts of ‘NON NON’. So I let go ………

View looking down … before Non Non’s fall!

I can re-play this next bit in slow motion in my head. Non Non started to float down and then unfurled and opened up, causing him to fly headlong, not into Adam’s hands, but onto a ledge of ruined wall about 10-12 feet above the ground. Adam clapped his hand over his mouth in shock, Jude’s wails increased in volume, Dylan looked at me with his eyes wide in disbelief. Non Non was stuck. We could see him. But couldn’t reach him.

Dylan and I got down the staircase as quickly as we could and surveyed the damage from ground level. There was no way we could get Non Non without help. It was just too high up. Jude was crying more and more so in damage control mode, we had to go and get Teddy. I left Adam trying to work out what the hell to do and ran back to the car with Jude whimpering on my hip. I had to walk through the entrance building. A poor bewildered employee of English Heritage listened to me blabbering on about how Non Non had ‘fallen’ and was stuck on the castle walls, and could he possibly help. Bless him, he went and got a long mop and foldaway chair and set off with a couple of visitors in tow (who had heard my tale of woe with interest) to where Adam was pacing. A pretty comical sight to be honest. I collected Teddy to Jude’s delight and kept him amused with various things in the gift shop, all the time crossing my fingers. Mr English Heritage came back with bad news. No he couldn’t get it down. We walked back to meet Adam and Dylan, strategically a few metres away from the crime scene.

Jude was calm by now and seemed to have forgotten about Non Non’s fate. Adam was still bothered and determined not to be beaten. We went for a distracting walk around the perimeter of the castle walls and Adam suddenly ‘found’ a large tree branch. Back he and Dylan went, whilst I continued to keep Jude amused. As much as I wanted to watch, I knew Jude couldn’t take it. Adam said that another visitor clocked him with the branch and asked if he was off to battle. Absolutely, he replied!

We had a lovely walk and as we came back round I saw Dylan running towards us with a big smile on his face ‘Daddy got Non Non!’.

Drama over. A wonderful reunion ensued. Cheers and rejoicing all round.

I know that one day, we won’t be so lucky. One day, Jude’s ties to Non Non and Teddy will start to relax. But we aren’t ready for that yet. Not that day.

Superdad saved the day (and the weeks/months that followed!). Non Non lives on.

A triumphant Daddy!

 

 

39 Years Young

Blurry birthday selfie!!

It’s official. Only 364 days left of my thirties! But that’s ok because life begins at 40 right?

So yesterday was my birthday. What better way to spend it than being spoiled by my wonderful husband and beautiful rainbows, whilst on holiday with the rest of my family. The day started with the boys climbing onto the bed to help me open my cards and presents. Dylan now fully understands the concepts of birthday and can break into singing birthday greetings without prompting, whereas Jude can just mumble words resembling ‘Happy Birthday Mummy’. Both are just as special and precious. To be honest, if just being cuddled up in bed was all the day had to offer, then I’d be more than happy. We tried and failed at a few selfies whilst daddy was out getting my special birthday breakfast (pastries, croissants, pain au chocolat etc mmm). Believe me, this photo was the best of a bad bunch.

We are at Centre Parcs at the moment. Me and my family unit, my older brother and his family and my mum, dad and other older brother who has flown in from America for the week. The boys are loving having their family within short trotting distance and love walking from one lodge to the next. Jude wants to be able to do all the things his older brother and cousins are doing. This includes ditching the afternoon nap because he doesn’t want to miss out on anything (not something I personally am relishing!). Dylan in particular loves playing with his cousin Emma. There is 14 months between them and being very similar personalities they get on so well together.

 

My birthday was a pretty chilled day, as most are at Centre Parcs. Activities interspersed with walking, playing, swimming and eating, all at a gentle pace. Dylan went pottery painting with his dad, grandma, auntie and cousin Emma. I took Jude on a mini high ropes adventure course.

 

One of the impromptu high points of the day had to be Jude’s hairdryer antics after we finished swimming. Move over Jedward, Judeward is here!

Once the boys were more or less asleep (they are sharing a room for the first time so you can imagine there is a fair bit of giddiness!), instead of putting on my gladrags and going out or kicking off my shoes and relaxing with a glass of wine, I pulled on my trainers and went for a run. Boy how times have changed!! I got some new running gear off Adam for my birthday and like a child wanting to play with a new toy, I couldn’t wait to try it out.

Light when I went out, dark when I returned!

 

I set out wanting to do my longest run of the year so far. Although I’ve run four 10k races, my longest race of the year in May is a half marathon, so my mileage needs to increase. I set out wanting to run at least 7 ½ miles but returned having managed 8.  I ran round and round the grounds, meeting countless birds, rabbits and even startling a deer.

 

I returned triumphant and treated myself to a small glass of wine and a hot bath. I then realised that wine wasn’t the best way to hydrate so followed it with a more appropriate glass of water. Call me weird (it’s fine, I understand), but there was definitely something exciting and empowering about running on my birthday. As I was out, I was pondering and thinking about all my past birthdays, or as many as I can remember. If I have the energy when I get home, I’ll dig out some photos to share of my birthday antics over the years.

 Knowing I completed a birthday first last night, something I wouldn’t have contemplated 5, 10 or 20 years ago, is in some ways an achievement. And after the cake and wine has settled, I am still buzzing!

 

 

Our Baby Rainbow

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On Monday we celebrated another rainbow birthday. This time it was Jude – 2 years old! I know it sounds cliche but where has the time gone? I can’t help calling him my baby, but soon he will start to understand what I mean .. and get seriously cheesed off!

I’ve previously written about my first rainbow pregnancy with Dylan and the (mainly emotional) difficulties we faced. With Jude it felt a lot different. I knew that my body was now capable of carrying a baby full term. I was a lot more confident. I felt like I could be a ‘normal’ expectant mother talking about ‘when’ the baby would come rather than ‘if’ or ‘hopefully’. I had another enviable pregnancy in that I had very little, if any morning sickness. My mum couldn’t believe how lucky I had been in that respect over three pregnancies. But boy was I tired. I didn’t remember being this tired before. Especially in the early weeks I just felt exhausted. I even remember lying down at work one day. I guess the big difference was having a two year old to run around after. Whereas before I could come home from work and just lie on the sofa, relax and maybe have a sneaky snooze, that was just a distant memory. Given we were potty training too in the early weeks, it felt particularly hard. But one thing I couldn’t do was complain.

Again I felt so incredibly lucky. As with Dylan’s pregnancy, we were under the care of the same consultant, the lovely Mrs Martindale. She was fully aware of our history so we didn’t have to explain a thing. By now, we also knew some of the midwives and sonographers. We followed the same plan as with Dylan. Regular appointments and scans every 4 weeks and then to be induced at 38 weeks, if nothing happened before. This was so handy with planning when to finish work as I had a pretty good idea of when the baby would come.


Unfortunately I didn’t learn any lessons from Dylan’s pregnancy. I have very few photos of me pregnant, less than with Dylan. It is one regret that I have. This is one of the only photos I have, taken the night before I went into be induced.

 

 

 

I was due to go into hospital on the 4th February in the afternoon. Jude arrived less than 48 hours later on the morning of the 6th. Although it might seem like a long time, for the most of it I was sat on the antenatal ward waiting for things (my cervix) to get moving!! Knowing that it would probably be a couple of days given my experience with Dylan, I took about 4 novels in with me … and read them all. It was absolute bliss! I was determined to make the most of the peace and quiet (I was in a single room!) whilst I could.

On one of the nights, I received a visit from one of the midwives on the Delivery ward. It was Paula, the midwife who delivered Ewan. She’d seen my name up on the board and recognised it. I know it sounds corny, but Paula is one of those people I will probably only see a few times in my life, yet I have such a strong bond with her that is hard to explain. She was there almost every step of Ewan’s delivery and for the hours afterwards. She shared such an important chapter in our lives that is usually only reserved for close family and friends, not someone you barely know. I will forever be grateful that she was with us and it was so wonderful to see her when I was waiting for our third baby to come.

So how would I describe Jude’s entrance into the world? One word. Quick! That might sound a bit bizarre when it took nearly 2 days from being induced, but when labour actually started, boy did I know about it. I had an epidural with Ewan, but didn’t have anything with Dylan. I didn’t consciously plan a pain-relief free birth but it just happened that way. With Jude I was determined to have as many drugs as I could get. But it wasn’t to be. It felt like I went from 0-60 in 10 seconds. At the point I asked for an epidural, I got the same response again, ‘too late, baby is on its way!’

Thankfully I got another heavenly midwife, Jayne. She came on shift at 8am, took control and sorted me out straight away. She got me on gas and air (which I’d never got the hang of before) and then suggested a water birth. I was completely stunned. I had no idea that I could have one because the baby was to be monitored throughout. ‘Of course’ she said, ‘we’ll get the tub filled up’. Talk about distracting me and diverting my attention.

It’s funny how the different senses invoke particular memories. It was a beautiful sunny morning on Monday. As I got out of the car with Jude, the sun hit my face and warmed me instantly. I was transported back to the birthing pool. As I settled in the water, the sun was coming up and streaming through the water. The design of the room couldn’t have been any better. I lay there with my eyes closed and on the sun on my face. It had a enormous calming effect.

I won’t bore you with any further details other than to say within 10 minutes of getting into the pool, Jude made his entrance into the world. Our second rainbow was in our arms. Dylan came to see him a couple of hours later. He was a bit bemused and couldn’t really work out what all the fuss was about, especially when Jude cried! He eventually came round a few days later. The photo below is one of the first I took of them together. It’s a bit blurry but you can see Dylan showing him one of his dinosaurs!

 

I don’t ever want to take my rainbows for granted. They are the delights that came into our lives and mended our broken hearts. Every day is a blessing, but on special days, like birthdays, I count them even more.

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Happy Happy Half Term

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I’ve decided a happy post is way overdue. Although the memory of half term is already fading, I wanted to share with you a couple of the fun things we got up to. Half terms are always particularly welcome for me seeing as I work in education. The first half term is always the hardest in my line of work, so by the time the break in October arrives, I am ready for some time off.

It was Dylan’s first school holiday, which was exciting for him, although given that he has absolutely LOVED his first half term at school, I think he was a tad disappointed not to be donning his uniform as normal. Thankfully the weather gods were beaming down on us for the first few days. I was off work Monday to Wednesday and the sun shone every day. No rainy day activities needed….. hurray!

Bolton Abbey

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We visited Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire, about a 30 minute journey for us. My parents brought me here a lot when I was younger, but it was our first visit with the boys. I wished we’d brought them sooner because they absolutely loved it. It is a huge estate on the banks of the River Wharfe with a ruined abbey, woods, waterfalls, open fields and picnic areas. We only explored a little bit with them so plenty of reasons to return.

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We took part in the Halloween Pumpkin walk, which was a trail through the woods counting sparkly pumpkins suspended from the trees and finding ‘coffins’ with Halloween related things inside e.g. spiders, toads, ghouls etc. There was a quiz which we had to complete and for the first time, Dylan carried the worksheet and (with our help with spellings), wrote down some of the answers. It was a real ‘wow, he is growing up’ moment. Jude had been asleep in the car so took a while to get going, but eventually perked up and loved opening all the coffin doors and running after his older brother.

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Afterwards we had a picnic by the river. Picnics definitely rate highly in the list of Dylan’s most favourite things to do. Winter picnics are often better, with no wasps or flies to spoil the fun. It was so warm that even in the shade we sat with our coats off. The colour of the trees was stunning. It reaffirmed why Autumn is my favourite season by far.

Pendle Hill

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Anyone who lives in, or has visited our beautiful corner of East Lancashire knows the local landmark hill, Pendle. We see it every day on the drive to school and Dylan loves being able to name it (although he shouts out that every other hill in the area is also Pendle, so we have a bit of work to do there). Jude went up last year in the baby carrier, but Dylan has never ventured up. A couple of his friends have climbed it, so he was keen to give it a shot.

We had decided to keep Jude in nursery for one of his scheduled days. He was in the process of moving from the baby room up to Toddlers, so we didn’t want to break his routine. After we dropped him off we drove straight to Barley, the village at the bottom of the hill.

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To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Dylan would make it to the top. But he was an absolute star. Once we got on the steps on the path up, he was like a little mountain goat. I kept asking if he wanted to rest (not that I wanted to!?!) but he kept saying he was fine. We managed to get him to stop for a bit to have a drink.
Again being another beautiful, clear day, the views were amazing. You can see for miles and miles. Dylan made it to the top of the steps all by himself. We allowed him a bit of time on Adam’s shoulders whilst we made the final short walk from the stairs to the summit. A few homemade chocolate and banana buns at the top and we were ready to go back down. One of my favourite photos taken was of Dylan trying to play hide and seek at the top. It is pretty sparse up there, but he managed to find some long grass to cover him. Pity his hat was bright red and gave him away!!

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At the bottom, we treated ourselves to a pub lunch and sat by the log stove. I thought Dylan would be wiped out for the rest of the day but he wasn’t. Me? I was ready for bed by 3pm!

I’m hoping the weather will stay nice for us at the weekends to still get out over winter. I know we can still wrap up in waterproofs and wellies, but it is much nicer when the gloomy rain gives way to winter sun. Some more wonderful memories in the bank for us and hopefully for the boys, Dylan at least, to treasure. Happy days indeed.

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Wave of Light

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7pm is usually getting out the bath and into pyjamas time in our house. I was panicking so much that I would miss the Wave of Light so I lit my candle a wee bit early and took photographs in advance to post.  #Waveoflight is now trending over social media as I type. In some ways it is tragic there are so many photographs of candles commemorating babies loved and lost, but how wonderful they can all be remembered and shared in this global community.

The SANDS Facebook post simply stated:

“For the light they brought into our lives, of which this candle is a living sign.”

I have pictured our candle with our angels and rainbows light. My mum’s cousin gave this to us last Christmas. It floored me a bit when I opened it. She had got everyone else in the family lights which were similar and had children/grandchildren on, I don’t know why but didn’t expect ours to include Ewan on as well as Dylan and Jude. I absolutely love it and it has pride of place in the living room.

“Our little Star is shining bright, his love exalted in the night. Watching over our Rainbows here who frolic and play with radiant cheer”.

Thinking of our little man tonight, and all the other angels sadly taken far too soon.

My love goes out to everyone who has lit a candle tonight.

#Waveoflight

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A Home Run

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After a week of gorgeous half term weather, I found myself dreaming of rain last Sunday morning. Unfortunately it turned out that my prayers weren’t to be answered and I woke up to a glorious blue sky. Hmmm, not really the best conditions for running 10,000 metres.
FullSizeRenderSo here we were, round 2 of my 2016 running challenge. A 10k race in my hometown of Burnley. Despite the heat, I was really looking forward to the run. We all piled into the car at about 8.30am – Adam, the boys and me. The start and finish of the run was in one of Dylan’s favourite parks so he was happy to come along and watch. He even joined in with my pre-race breakfast of porridge and honey.
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It was a very different affair compared with 2 weeks ago in Manchester. Instead of 35,000 people taking part, there were about 1500 in Burnley. Waiting to start I chatted to ex-work colleagues and saw old friends. It had a real community feel to it. A lot of people turned up to the start to see us all off, but it wasn’t too busy that Adam and the boys could stand by one of the barriers and wave as I went past. It was a great boost to see their smiling faces (although Jude was apparently very upset to see me fly past without stopping!)

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And so we were off. And typical of the Burnley landscape we were almost straight into a hill. In contrast to the Manchester 10k which was relatively flat, this course was one of many hills. On the flipside though, whenever you run up, you have to run down! At least our first hill was under the shade of the Towneley Park woods.

I looked back at my description of the Manchester 10k. I used the words busy and hot a lot. Thankfully Burnley wasn’t too busy and I was able to run without the fear of tripping over someone’s ankles. But hot it definitely was! Sunny to be more precise. To be honest, weather and terrain-wise, Manchester was much much easier. But guess what, I managed to beat by Manchester time by 16 seconds. And broke the magic hour mark, woo hoo!!

IMG_0948Although the run was harder, it was easily a prettier run to experience. Knowing the area helped as I knew what to expect at almost every turn. The last stretch was (again) on a hill which was a really tough finish. But with about 200 metres to go, I saw my own personal cheerleaders waving to give me that last surge of energy. As I ran past, Dylan handed me a bunch of dandelions. I don’t know who had the bigger smile at that point, him or me! It gave me the push to attempt a sprint finish – meaning that I crossed the line at 59 mins 50 seconds. Even though it only took a couple of minutes for my time to come through as a text message, I knew from looking at my watch that I had more or less beaten my personal target. I almost cried with relief!

Cue to pick up my finishers t-shirt and goody bag. I saw a one of my work colleagues who had run 2 weeks before and also got a better time.  There was clearly something in the Lancashire air pushing us along.

I got big hugs all round when I met up with Adam and the boys a few minutes later. I tried (unsuccessfully) to get a good finishers photo with Dylan and Jude but they had other ideas. Bless them, they were ready to go home!

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Reflecting afterwards on the run, it was really hard. But all the effort was worth it to have Dylan and Jude watch me finish, and then to get a PB in the bag. They don’t know why I am running yet but they will someday soon. The medal will be tucked away in Ewan’s memory box which is where I’ve decided I will put all my running memorabilia. It feels like the right place, where he can look after it.

Now, onwards and upwards to the half marathon. I’ve proved I can go half the distance this year, so it’s time to step up the training. Wish me luck!

If you would like to sponsor me, please visit my fundraising page. All amounts are gratefully received, however big or small.
www.justgiving.com/running4ewan

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Five Years

The 17th January comes to a close. For a lot of people across the UK, today has been significant because they were able to enjoy the first real snowfall of the winter.

For Adam and I, it will always be a significant day because carries with it an important anniversary. It is a day were we remember what happened to us back in 2011. Five years ago.

Our lives started down a very different path to the one we have been cruising happily along for some time. We had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of our firstborn. Instead, he was born sleeping. Five years ago.

Every year we aim to celebrate. It gives us a positive focus. It was a bit difficult the first year as we had a five day old Dylan to look after. My mum and dad babysat for an hour or so (making it the first time I had left him) whilst Adam and I went to visit Ewan’s grave. The second year, we both took the day off work and kept Dylan off nursery. We spent the day together and went out for a lovely meal.

The third year followed a similar path. Again we booked the day off to be together as a family. However something slightly bizarre happened. My friend sent me a message to ask if I had checked the results of the local weekly hospice lottery. I had a monthly Direct Debit going out and in about 5 years of taking part had probably won about £25. I didn’t make a habit of checking it regularly.

I looked. I had won the first prize! A random draw, I won the jackpot on Ewan’s third birthday. Surely that’s more than a coincidence? I don’t know why, it just felt as though Ewan was watching over us. And sent us a gift to make us smile on his special day. It felt appropriate to make a donation back to the Hospice and also to Sands.

Last year, I had just finished work the day before for my maternity leave. We had another dusting of snow and took Dylan to the cemetery with his new gardening kit. I took these wonderful photos. He helped us to clear the snow from the grave and arrange the flowers.

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IMG_8663Dylan and I went to the pantomime this afternoon with family. Afterwards Adam collected us with Jude (who was a bit too young for the theatre), and together we all went to visit Ewan. It was getting pretty cold but we wrapped up and picked our way through the snow. Dylan is starting to get quite inquisitive and I wondered if he would start to ask more searching questions. I haven’t yet worked out how we are going to talk to him about his older brother. I’m not sure he is old enough to understand quite yet. Anyway he was quite happy to make holes in the snow with his pick! Jude was just happy to be held.

We went for tea afterwards. Jude who has been fussy with food recently ate his body weight in mashed potato, veggies and turkey and they both enjoyed time together in the play area. I just loved watching them.

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Today hasn’t felt just quite as difficult as previous years. Is this time being a healer? Is it because I now have double trouble to run around after? Yes to both to a certain degree, but I also think that writing this blog for the past 6 months has helped by giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings about Ewan, about the difficult times, but also the joy that both he and his brothers have given us.

So all it remains for my to say now is Happy Birthday Ewan. We miss you incredibly and there is a part of us that will always be with you. You will always be loved and never forgotten.

Eight Reasons to Love Parkrun

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Yesterday morning I completed my eighth parkrun. New Year’s resolutions and all, I decided if I was going to get off my backside and start running properly this year, I needed to start as I meant to go on. I’ve written about my first parkrun here and also about how I want to do the Great North Run this year to raise money for SANDS in Ewan’s memory.

Eight parkrun’s isn’t a huge accomplishment but it’s one I am proud of as I haven’t run much over the past couple of years. Anyway I’ve decided to compile a list of the reasons (so far) why I love parkrun and hopefully motivate others take part too.

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A great start to the weekend

Gone are the days when Saturday mornings are spent in bed till noon, nursing a hangover. If I’m lucky, it’s a 7am wake up call and I’m straight into mum mode. So it doesn’t feel a huge effort to get myself ready for a 9am run seeing as I’ve been up at least 2 hours already. Ok the run feels tough when I’m doing it, but afterwards, I have a sense of achievement. I get on with my day feeling rather smug wondering how many other people have a 5k under their belt by 10am?

 

It’s free

Perfect for a tight northerner like me! No expensive gym memberships or class subscriptions required. Parkrun doesn’t cost a penny.

 

The great outdoors

I’ve never been one for gyms. Sorry, it’s just not for me. If I’m going to run, I want to be out and about and get fresh air into my lungs. All parkruns are, believe it or not …. in parks! My local run is in the beautiful surroundings of Towneley Park in Burnley, Lancashire. I’m sure there are equally stunning locations up and down the country. It’s good for the soul to spend time outdoors, whatever the weather.

 

Motivation

I can’t imagine getting up on a Saturday morning and motivating myself to go out for a 5k run. In fact, I am not good a motivating myself to run full stop. I generally find that I can only run when I have a goal to work towards. Getting fit after having my babies was one goal. Running a charity 10k or half marathon has been another. I find it hard to get out otherwise. I don’t tend to run just for pleasure.

Parkrun is helping to be that motivation. It gives me something to look forward to and work towards. This New Year I am aiming to get out for two runs during the week, hoping that it will improve my Saturday parkrun times.

There is also the motivation to beat the person in front, to improve on each run and chase that PB.

 

Volunteers

Each parkrun is run entirely by volunteers. Now I would be impressed if that just applied to one or two parkruns. But it applies to every single parkrun. Hats off to all those who turn up before 9am to be assigned a role and then stand there in all weathers, marshalling and (most importantly) clapping and encouraging us runners on. And of course, the runs wouldn’t take place without them.

 

Family

Parkrun is a real family affair. Each time I have taken part, I have seen plenty of younger children running (I am talking 5, 6, 7 year olds!) with their mums, dads, grandma’s and grandad’s. I can’t think there would be many other regular opportunities where this can happen. It is such an uplifting sight.

Even babies can take part …. well kind of. A few parents run with buggies (those special 3 wheeled ones designed for bumpy terrain). Someone I know is a good 5 minutes faster than me … with her 18 month old in the buggy. That’s kind of embarrassing really.

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Thanks to my parents I’ve managed to run with Adam a couple of times

Each week there are hundreds of photographs posted on the local parkrun Facebook page. It is really wonderful to see so many happy kids, of all ages, enjoying themselves with friends and family, getting fit and keeping healthy. I hope that maybe when my active, almost 4 year old gets a bit older, he will be keen to take part too.

 

Technology & Timing

I am blown away by the technology used. It is absolutely amazing!!! Starting from the moment you sign up to parkrun, you get a unique running number and a barcode. You print off your barcode (in a handy credit card size) and bring it with you. At the end of the run you get a tag which tells you your position (in the race). This is then collected and your barcode is scanned.

IMG_7156Between 2-4 hours later, a text message is sent with your time and position. I think it’s great how quickly this arrives, but it feels like forever when you are waiting to find out whether you have beaten your PB or not!

You can then go onto the website or Facebook page of your local parkrun and delve into the statistics even further. How many people took part? (In my case) How many women? This gives you an idea of how well placed (or not) you are. For example, you may have come 30th overall, but be the first female home (for the record that has never happened to me, nor is ever likely!). There is also an Age Grading (now for the science bit). This is compiled using your time and the world record for your sex and age group to produce a score. The higher your score (a percentage), the better you are. It just helps if you want to compare yourself to other runners who are a different age or sex.

It’s baffling the amount of stats available and you can look at all your past runs and compare times. And for a free event? It’s nothing short of miraculous.

 

Community

The word community means so many things when it comes to parkrun. From the army of volunteers to the hundreds who turn up each week. Although I’ve taken part in such a small number, I think at every run I’ve ended up talking to one or more stranger. It could be about the weather or if we were happy with our times. Maybe to encourage someone who has stopped to walk, or to tell someone their laces are untied! I spent one run chatting away to a woman with two dogs. My time wasn’t very good but I had lots of fun.

I’ve seen colleagues from work, friends from school, and even my junior school teacher who first encouraged me to start running.

It’s great to see such a huge variety of people gathered together; different ages, abilities and backgrounds. All sharing in one common goal.

 

If you are a parkrunner, do you have anything else to add? If you aren’t, I hope I’ve convinced you to take it up in 2016. To find your nearest parkrun, check out the parkrun website

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Before my first parkrun. Don’t know why I looked so nervous!

 

 

..And a Happy New Year

Fireworks

So another New Year passes. How did you spend yours? We celebrated in the same way as we have for the past six years. A night in watching a film/boxset (last night we caught up with the latest season of the Walking Dead), our favourite food/takeaway (left over buffet dips, cheese and biscuits and smoked salmon!) and generally rarely making it to midnight. We lasted until about 10.30 pm and then crawled up to bed!

It hasn’t always been so. Whilst some people are very ‘anti-New Years’, I’ve always been one to celebrate, ideally somewhere different or exciting. But always with friends and of course, for the last ten years, Adam. It probably stems from the fact that from turning 18 I worked in a pub on New Years Eve for about four years. Ok it was generally lots of fun (with great tips!), but it wasn’t the same as kicking my heels up and being on a dancefloor at midnight with friends singing Auld Lang Syne.

There has been a fair share of  celebrating in nightclubs and pubs across the country. One favourite New Years was at a friend’s house party in Watford. It was particularly memorable because at midnight, after the obligatory singing, we stayed in our huddle and started decided to shout out all the things that had made us happy or we were proud of in the previous year. The fact it lasted a long time obviously showed what a contented bunch we were! I also remember spending the whole of New Years Day in our pyjamas watching Sex and the City boxsets.

I’ve been lucky enough to be abroad a few times and celebrated in memorable places.

  • The Blue Mountains near Sydney – my family came out to visit me whilst I was backpacking. We rented a cottage in the middle of nowhere, played games and set off our own fireworks.
  • Christchurch, New Zealand where my in-laws live. We had a few drinks during the day and then watched the fireworks from their house overlooking the city at midnight.
  • Cologne, Germany – a truly amazing New Year experience spent with friends, ranking up there with one of the best. We had a tip off that NY in Germany would be spectacular, and it didn’t disappoint. We witnessed a truly ‘dis’organised firework display, spontaneously created by the locals. It was the stuff of nightmares for British Health and Safety staff, but we loved it.
  • Arusha, Tanzania at the start of our honeymoon. We actually went to bed early that NYE because we had to be up at the crack of dawn to go on safari the following day. I still remember hearing the fireworks.

Cologne 068 Cologne 018Celebrating in Cologne

It could be argued that our most memorable was the year we got to celebrate midnight twice! We’d spent another Christmas with Adam’s parents in New Zealand and set off travelling back to the UK on New Years Eve. Our flight left Auckland at 11pm. Once we were in the air, the cabin crew handed out glasses of bubbly and toasted the New Zealand midnight. After a 12+ hour flight we landed in Los Angeles just after midday on the 31st having crossed the International Date Line (thus going back in time). When we boarded our connecting a couple of hours later, out came the glasses again and this time we toasted the UK New Year. Two for the price of one!

So even though I’ve enjoyed sharing my trip down New Year Memory Lane, I am still more than happy to spend the evening of the 31st, as I did last night. Some may say it is boring and uneventful.

I know that one day the boys will stop up and celebrate with us. We might take them out to stop with family or friends. You never know, we might even take them to experience a New Year abroad.

But for now, I am happy and satisfied cuddled up on the sofa in my PJ’s, with my other half and two sleeping rainbows upstairs. Forever grateful and thankful for what I have.

Happy New Year to you all.

 

 

Our Super Scottish Holiday!!

And so begins my first ever holiday blog. I’m really looking forward to writing about our Scottish holiday, because hopefully in years to come I’ll be able to look back and fondly read through, recalling a lot of the detail that I will probably have forgotten.

It will be hard to cram it all into one post. Especially seeing as we have done so many wonderful things. My plan is to write a few more specific posts about some of the things we got up to (if I have the time!). We were only away for a week yet we managed to pack so much in, despite being pretty sleep deprived for a lot of the time. Poor Jude was been teething most of the week, which he shared with us most mornings around 3, 4, 5 and 6 am! Bless him, I can tell he was in such pain. It also means he was a bit crammed during the day, so it wasn’t always easy keeping him happy (lots of walking up and down in the Baby Bjorn helped though). Still, Dylan had a brilliant time. He has really grasped the concept of what a holiday is now and it is great to witness everything through his eyes.

We chose Scotland because it was almost 18 months since our last visit and 3 years since our last proper holiday. As I’ve written before, Adam and I love visiting Scotland. Whilst we want the boys to see the world which we have been lucky enough to experience, we also want them to appreciate the beauty of the British Isles.

Saturday

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The view from the cottage

Although it was only a 3 hour journey to Dumfries and Galloway, we built in a lunchtime stop at Tebay services to make sure the boys weren’t too fed up strapped in their car seats. I absolutely love this place. It’s so family friendly and is the most picturesque motorway services I’m aware of. Whilst Dylan was still asleep in the car, we managed to quickly set up his room and Adam laid out all the toys we had brought so he would be excited and hopefully take to the room without a problem. It worked, and he was more than happy to be on the first floor on his own. Even more exciting was seeing the sea from his bedroom window.

IMG_7137Carsethorn itself was a pretty small place. A few houses, a B & B and a pub. The beach is stone and shingle so Dylan was more than happy throwing stones into the sea. The bigger the better. We wandered down the beach to the pub and stumbled across a shark rock. This was heaven for a boy currently in the midst of an Octonauts obsession. There was also a wooden boat to fulfil his pirate appetite!

 

Dylan was pretty mortified when it was time for bed, but perked up when we told him he could come and visit the shark and boat the next day.

Sunday

Our plan for the day revolved round a visit to Dino Park, east of Dumfries. Our eyes lit up the day before when we drove past the sign. Given that most of the books and toys Dylan had brought with him were dinosaur related, it was a fitting location. And it didn’t disappoint. The park was full of various dinosaurs, with information plaques (and helpful phonetic aids to get the pronunciations right!). We had been warned that the noises would be triggered as we moved closer. At first Dylan was stunned and (although he wouldn’t like to admit it) a bit scared. He soon worked out that they weren’t real and was happy to run from one to the next. A dinosaur themed bouncy castle and an adventure play park were the icing on the cake.

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Monday

We drove out past Kircudbright to the Cream O’ Galloway activity centre. This was an absolutely amazing place and I can’t wait to write more about it. Being school term-time, we almost had the run of the place to ourselves. We packed in a walk with some cows and a picnic (always a winner with Dylan) before throwing ourselves onto Go Boing – a network of suspended aerial trampoline-like nets. It wouldn’t have been safe to take Jude on, so Adam and I had to take it in turns to jump around like fools with Dylan. We had so much fun and it was difficult to tear him away to explore the 3D maze and huge viewing tower. Given that the Cream O Galloway is an ice-cream company, obviously we had to sample the goods. Thumbs up from Dylan!

We treated ourselves to a meal in the pub in Carsethorn, the Steamboat Inn when we got back. As well as serving beautiful seafood, it was always desked out with various nick nacks including a huge shark mounting on the wall – guess who wanted to go and see it time after time?!? It was so nice to be able to have a sneaky glass of wine without having to worry about driving back anywhere. I was pretty chuffed with this photograph.

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Tuesday

Walking up to see blue skies and sun, it would have been rude not to head to the beach. Dylan had been asking ever since we arrived if we could make sandcastles. So armed with buckets and spades, another picnic (and various other paraphernalia!) we hit Rockcliffe beach.

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This is a great place for kids to explore – rocks to climb, searching the rockpools for sea creatures and of course, plenty of sand. The tide was well out, but we weren’t really planning on swimming! Jude was particularly crammed so we took it in turns to explore with Dylan. When it was my turn, we started making sandcastles, until Dylan decided it was much more fun to watch me make them and then for him to kick them over! Errr no Dylan!

Wednesday

Our first and only rainy day. But no matter. I had a particular place in mind to visit; the Cocoa Bean Company near Kircudbright. Another brilliant place to visit, this was a perfect place to spend a few rainy hours.

Jude experiencing soft play

Jude experiencing soft play

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Chocolatier in training

There was a café and soft play but the main feature for us was the chocolate making workshop. Again I want to write a lot more about this as it was such a great activity and Dylan cites this as being the highlight of the holiday. Great praise indeed.

 

 

The rain also cleared for us to spend some time in the outdoor play area. What 3 year old wouldn’t want to spend the rest of the afternoon on a pirate ship? We had to dig deep with our persuasive skills when it was time to leave.

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Thursday

P1100397It was a bit cooler and windier, but we still managed to spend some time at the beach again. We went out for lunch first to a nice wee village called Kippford. Jude fell asleep in the car during the 5 minute journey to Rockcliffe (typical) so Adam stayed in the car with him. We figured Jude needed to catch up on his sleep. So Dylan and I braved the wind and were determined to have fun. I initiated a game of football in order to warm up!

I took this photo below on Rockcliffe Beach.

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I’ve decided to try and write the names of my angel and two rainbows on every beach (or holiday) we go on. The first time I did it was in Whitby when we went for a break in April. I guess I want Ewan to know we are thinking about him. Dylan gave me a hand this time. He doesn’t know the significance yet. One day he will.

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Friday

On our last full day, we went on a bit of a journey. We drove nearly two hours up to Glasgow to meet up with my sister-in-law. She lives with my brother in the States so we only get to see her once or twice a year if we are very lucky. She was over in Scotland visiting her mum and it happened to coincide with our holiday, so we could resist the temptation to see her. Even just for a few hours.

The Kelvingrove in Glasgow
The Kelvingrove in Glasgow

 

She suggested the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, thinking it would have a few things to keep Dylan amused. She wasn’t wrong.

We had visited the Natural History Museum in London a few weeks earlier, which he loved, and there were some similarities. The Kelvingrove is a beautiful building (like in London) and given the huge variety of exhibits, it’s no surprise that it is the most visited museum in the UK outside of London. Oh and it’s free too!

Dylan particularly loved the natural history; animals, sharks and (of course) dinosaurs. I was intrigued by these floating heads. Maybe we didn’t take as much notice of all the exhibitions as we should have (too much nattering and catching up), but there is nothing to stop us going again!

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Back home after the two-hour drive, we treated ourselves again to a meal at the Steamboat Inn. Another glass of wine and possibly the best fish pie ever! To round off the holiday, we watched Braveheart back at the cottage.

 

Not including our weekend in Whitby, it was our first proper holiday as a foursome. Despite Jude’s disrupted nights and general poorliness, we still had a brilliant time. Just being together as a family without having to think about all the run-of-the-mill, day-to-day jobs, housework etc, is heavenly. We picked a wonderful spot to stay and this particular corner of Scotland has so much to offer for little ones. I can’t wait for our next break away.