A letter to Matilda Mae

It has been a very, very long time since I have written on my blog. I’d started to feel like I didn’t really know which direction I wanted to go in – my blog was a real mish-mash of posts and I didn’t like the way I was writing.  But as January draws to a close, an anniversary is drawing near and there is something I want to write.

On 2nd February last year, a beautiful 9 month old baby girl, Matilda Mae, lost her life to SIDS. I came across her mother’s post on her blog (Edspire) via something my Facebook page and was really moved by her news. Since then, I have followed her story, her struggle, her fundraising, her life with her adorable 3 year old twins. Jennie is an incredibly  brave, inspirational, strong mother. I am linking up to ‘Letters to Matilda Mae’ on Ghostwritermummy’s blog.

Dear Matilda Mae,

Precious baby. How you have touched my heart.

I remember well the shock I felt when I read of your passing nearly a year ago. How could it be? How could a healthy, happy baby go to sleep and never wake up? How can it be that a mummy and daddy, brother and sister, grandparents and other family have to live without you? You don’t know me Matilda and I haven’t met your mummy but I wish I could take away her pain, I wish I could tell her it will be alright but I know things will never be the same for her again. She may get up each morning, she may smile, she may laugh, but I know she lives with a searing pain in her heart. She misses you so much Matilda.

I can honestly say, Matilda, that I have thought of you every single day since the day I first read about you. Quite often I have been moved to tears. I’ve wished I had some magical powers that could bring you back to your family – wished I could do more than send a tweet or a message. But know this, little girl – your name, your spirit, your memory lives on through so many people. You certainly have a place in my heart and will for ever more. For the 9 months that you were with your family, I didn’t know that a beautiful baby girl called Matilda Mae existed in a village somewhere in Kent – I hadn’t said the words ‘Matilda Mae’ to anyone – but now many people I know, know your name too. They know how much your little life mattered, how much it still matters and how much your mummy is doing in your memory.

How I wish 2nd February was ‘just another day’ for your family. I wish you were walking around, chattering away to Esther and William. But I know that you are guiding your family, watching over them. I hope you are enjoying your garden, seeing the pink and purple blooms. I hope you like all the stars. I hope you are happy in heaven.

Bless you sweetheart,

xx

What a night’mare’ – “Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste” ~William Shakespeare

Ahh, the above quote is so, so true in my garden. We moved in just over a year ago and really the gardening so far has been trying (and pretty much failing miserably) to keep on top of the weeds.

It is a lovely, large garden, mostly laid to lawn but there is a fair-sized vegetable patch on one side and two borders on the other running parallel to each other the length of the garden. The borders have mainly green shrubs but there are some cottage garden flowers too.

However, the weeds have taken over. They have emerged swiftly, advancing upon the weaker species, trampling and choking, engulfing and suffocating, tangling and twisting. It is a sorry sight. The chief warrior seems to be Mare’s-tail – an aggressive, mighty beast with no morals and no heart. All attempts to rid the garden kingdom of this brute have been to no avail!

We have researched how to kill the mare’s-tail and have painted on industrial strength weed-killer which is slowly having some effect but the fact that the roots can run several metres under ground and that it can suddenly appear overnight means it is going to be a very lengthy process, taking a good few years I should think.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/aug/03/ask-alys-fowler-horsetail-invasion

The other weeds are slightly easier to take care of – time permitting. It’s a job I dislike though. I have visions of it all being like next door’s. Our neighbours have got an immaculate garden – a pristine, perfectly flat, manicured lawn and beautiful flower beds full of vibrant colours. They moan about the time it takes them and often say they would gladly concrete it all over but I think you have to secretly love gardening to get one to that standard so I don’t believe a word of it! They must look after the fence in despair at our weedfest and I know they have had Mare’s-Tail creeping through into their garden!

Oh well, we will get there in the end no doubt with a little bit of perseverance, dedication and hard work!

So much to do, so little time

I have really neglected my blog over the last few weeks. Sometimes life just takes over and I get so exhausted and with 4 young children and a husband whose work takes him away at least 2 nights a week I don’t really seem to get much me time. Here are some the things I hope to blog about over the next couple of months:-

Our house need a lot of work doing to it at the moment – we are currently renovating an old barn that juts out the back of the house – I think the last time it was actually used for anything properly was when it was the landlord’s accommodation in the 1940’s (our house was built in the early 1800’s and was a pub until the late 1940’s). But it had been left to rack and ruin and was cold, damp and crumbly and certainly wasn’t watertight. I will blog about it properly with photographs down the line.

Another reason that I haven’t had time is that I have been preparing to go back to work after 4 and a half years out. Now I am a little bit nervous about this but I don’t really know why. It is at the same school I taught at for nearly 10 years and a lot of the staff are still the same. However, it is Y6 which I haven’t taught for over 15 years so that is all a little bit new. In my last couple of years teaching before I taught Y3/4 but before then I was a KS1 teacher. This summer holiday is going really quickly so I am trying to make the most of not having to rush around in the morning. Now I am only going back to work part-time but it is every morning so the logistics of getting 4 children ready  to leave the house by 7.45am each day at the latest is not an appealing prospect! But without me earning the renovations will have to come to a standstill! I will also blog about this once I am back!

I hosted a school reunion recently.  (not the whole year just my form). It was 28 years since we first met and at least 21 since some of us had seen each other. a lovely day which I will write about soon.

One of our chickens is broody at the moment – I ordered some (hopefully) eggs which she is now keeping warm and protecting fiercely! Hopefully some will hatch and hopefully we won’t get cockerels! I was sent half a dozen made up of 4 different breeds so it could be a very exciting time! again, I will update on here!

We have chickens -Introducing Lily and Pearl!

2013-06-29 11.39.37

Nearly a year after moving into our forever house (has it really been a year already? How time flies) we have finally acquired chickens! We have kept chickens, along with a cockerel, before when we lived down in Lydney in Gloucestershire – we inherited them with the house we were renting and trying to buy. So although we are not experts we are by no means novices. We’ve only got the two for now but we are getting an egg a day which have lovely rich golden yolks. I think they are Orpington chickens but I’m not sure.

Ava has named them Lily and Pearl. They are very tame especially Lily, the brown one. Once we let them out of their coop in the morning, they are able to roam around the garden.  Lily waddle runs up the garden to greet me  hoping for a tasty titbit, with Pearl following not far behind! Bananas and raisins are their favourite treat of the moment! They will both eat out of your hand and I think Lily wants to take up residence in the house as she keeps trying to come in the back door!

My friend was telling me that she started off with just two chickens in her garden and now she has 16! I don’t think I’ll go quite that far but I am now tempted to get maybe 2 or 3 more!

Scented playdough – a sensory experience!

Every so often I make a batch of playdough for the children – they love it and will happily play for quite a while with it, squidging and squashing it, moulding and mashing it, rolling and stretching it. We have made different colours and we have had glittery dough before but I’ve never made scented. I remember reading a couple of blogs where the writers had made chocolate playdough using cocoa and also minted playdough (using minty  tea tree shampoo I think). I decided to try 4 different types of playdough – malted, coffee, ginger and cinnamon! My kitchen smelt wonderful!

2013-06-15 11.13.35

I used a very simple, no cook basic recipe.

Playdough

2 cups of plain flour

1 cup of salt

1 tbsp. cooking oil

1/2-1 cup of cold water

Combine the flour and salt. Add the oil and the water mixing until the correct consistency is achieved.

(There is a recipe that I would like to try next time from The Imagination Tree – you can find it here)

I added the extra dry ingredients at the first step and to be honest I just played it by ear for the quantities. I used a single sachet of malted drink powder and a couple of teaspoon of finely powdered instant coffee. The cinnamon and ginger quantities were the remnants in the little jars which I realised were actually very out of date so it was a good way to use them up and replenish the stock! The finished dough was a little bit grainy but I think it added to the overall sensory experience!

2013-06-15 12.17.52                     2013-06-15 12.18.03

I didn’t add food colouring as I quite liked the different shades of beige and brown it made and this colour was perfect for what I wanted to do with it. Usually I give the children an assortment of rolling pins and cookie cutters but today I gave them the parts from our Mr Potato Head sets (facial features, hats, shoes, arms etc) and  a collection of bottle tops I have been collecting (the tops from the baby food pouches I use when we are out and about are great and come in many different colours). I added straws cut to different lengths, dried pasta shapes, dried pulses and flaked almonds (again an out of date find – I really must clear out the cupboards more often…or do more baking!)

 2013-06-15 11.13.42 2013-06-15 11.13.50 2013-06-15 11.13.56 2013-06-15 11.14.02 2013-06-15 11.14.21

I let them loose with very little guidance and here’s what they did:

2013-06-15 11.24.47              2013-06-15 11.25.01                2013-06-15 12.55.28

Time Machine Music #1 – ‘Friendship’

Cover of "Beaches (Special Edition)"

Cover of Beaches (Special Edition)

A few bloggers have written posts about music recently. Music that they have ‘inherited’ from their parents or tracks they would like their children to ‘inherit’.

This is a great idea but I think I would find it too difficult to narrow down my selection to just a few tracks. So, over a few posts I will be sharing my ‘Time Machine’ tracks – music that instantly takes me to a certain place, a certain time. I love that music can do that – trigger a memory that has been pushed into the deepest recesses of your mind, within hearing the opening few bars.

One of my most favourite tracks is from one of my most favourite films – ‘Wind beneath my Wings’ from the film ‘Beaches’. Now I’ve always loved the song and the film from the very first time I listened/watched years ago. I watch the film probably 3 times a year and I cry buckets each time. Just hearing the song makes my eyes prickle with tears! (I know, I’m a wuss!!)

But now when I hear the track it takes me back to a very difficult time in my life but also makes me remember how wonderful my friends are and how important they are in my life.

It takes me back to when we were living in Spain. I won’t go in to the story of this now but we’d moved over there for my husband’s job. It was only 3 weeks after having my second daughter – I was still recovering from the C-section, still hormonal. My other daughter was only 22 months old. I didn’t speak a word of Spanish (other than Hola!) and I hadn’t really wanted to go. The timing was all wrong and we were living in a sleepy little village where no one spoke a word of English. I didn’t have a car and the public transport was not the best (especially for a double buggy). I was very isolated, very lonely and very miserable. We didn’t even have a phone line or internet access so keeping in touch with people was hard (too expensive to phone on a mobile all the time). We didn’t have satellite TV for the first couple of months either. I did actually pick up quite a bit of Spanish fairly quickly but I couldn’t have a ‘chat’ to anyone. It was soooooooo hot too – we were just outside Seville so very inland. We moved in the March and by the end of May temperatures were over 40 degrees. Too hot for a toddler and a baby – and for me! I could go in to detail about all the reasons I found it so difficult there but I won’t. Let’s just say, for me Spain is a beautiful country and as a holiday destination it’s great but to live? Not for me.

My husband and I were really not getting on very well either (again I won’t go into detail here and we worked through it) so that didn’t help. Anyway, back to the main reason of this post. Two of my closest friends came out to visit for a few days. At the time we all had various ‘stuff’ going on so we were all really happy to see each other. I’d been missing them like crazy as I used to see them all the time – seeing them in the flesh just reinforced how dreadfully home sick I was.

The week before they arrived had been gloriously hot so they’d come prepared for lots of bikini weather, sunbathing and splashing in our pool. Most of the week it was cold and wet!! So one evening we sat down to watch a DVD with a glass of wine. we put on ‘Beaches’ as we’d all seen it before (me, many times) and were all happy to watch it again. We had a bit of a sing-a-long to the soundtrack including ‘Wind Beneath my wings’. By the end, we were in floods of tears!

This moment reinforced how much my friends meant to me and how important all my friends were to me. I’ve watched the film a few times since then and whenever I watch it or hear the song on the radio it takes me back to that cold, wet, miserable day in Spain!

Raised salt painting art – a bit hit and miss!

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while as we actually did it a few weeks ago now. To honest I was quite disappointed with the end result but the process was interesting and fun and that is just as important as the finished product, sometimes more so! I came across the idea on One Perfect Day blog.

We used a large tray with the sheet of paper on top this to catch any spillage and any excess salt.

G and C started off by squirting large swirls and whirls and patterns of glue all over a sheet of paper – we used a bottle of PVA glue with a pouring spout on the end so it was quite easy for them to control and handle – obviously the marks made could be endless – it could be used for letter and number formation too.

1369052436362

The next step was to sprinkle salt over the glue – I had bought a cheap tub of table salt, again with a pouring spout. This was quite fun – “It’s like sprinkling snow” cried Gabriella. I then shook off the excess salt.

1369052474307

 

Now, this is the bit that didn’t work so well. I used food colouring with a little bit of water in it and I was waiting in anticipation when Gabriella dropped the first bit of colour onto her salty glue. I expected the colour to magically swim along the line of glue and for it to become a burst of colour. in reality, it splodged on top of the glue salt and spread not very far!

 

1369052548473 1369052577316 1369052641297

 

This could be because the food colouring mix was too runny or maybe I needed to wait until the mixture had dried more. I also think using black sugar paper would have been more effective in showing up the colours. The texture and 3D effect was quite interesting and the children had fun doing this so even though it wasn’t quite as I expected it was still worthwhile!

Geocaching – super, smashing…….great!

 Bank Holiday Monday – the weather was glorious! So we decided to make the most of it and get out in the great fresh air! We have lots of open countryside around where we live so initially we were just going to for a long hike and take a picnic. Then we remembered our neighbours telling us about their hobby of ‘geocaching’.

 

 

Geocaching

 
 

Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, anywhere in the world.

A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook where the geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. After signing into the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (Tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value.

 

 

Our neighbours go all over the country doing this and really enjoy it. They told us there were quite a few walks near us so we decided on impulse to give it a go. My husband used to be a keen orienteer so he is a very good map reader (unlike me!!). We packed a picnic and his I-pad which had all the information we needed.

There were 8 caches to find on this particular route. We took it  nice and slowly and ended up walking for about 2 1/2 hours. This meant we only covered about half the trail and found two out of the 4 containers. But in our defence, the hedges were very brambly and nettle-y!

The children were very excited when my husband found a cache, and were eager to see what was inside! Little cars, stickers and other knickknacks. We hadn’t been prepared enough to take little trinkets along with us to swap over but it was still like a little treasure hunt for the children, although persuading little chappie to put the car back took some time! Ava (aged 6) enjoyed writing a little message in the notepads for the next ‘finders’ to read!

This was a pleasant way to while away a few hours and get lots of exercise at the same time. The children had fun, my husband got to show off his orienteering skills (!) and I enjoyed just ambling along in the countryside and fresh air pushing the pushchair. And it’s free!

Go on – give it a go!!

 

 

 

 

 

DSCF2014 DSCF2023 DSCF2028 DSCF2029 DSCF2031

Didn’t we have a lovely time…….. the day we went to Wollaton Hall!

I have been meaning to put this post up for over a week now but life has just taken over. Things just seem to have been really busy – I’ve been feeling really tired and run down, I haven’t really done any activities with the littlies and I’ve had a lot on my mind (more of that in another post!). So I am finally going to blog about our day at Wollaton Hall.

English: Wollaton Hall from Morris's Seats of ...

English: Wollaton Hall from Morris’s Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen (1880). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wollaton Hall, Nottingham, England completed i...

Wollaton Hall, Nottingham, England completed in 1588 for Sir Francis Willoughby by the Elizabethan architect, Robert Smythson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was born in Nottingham and lived there for the first few years of my life. Then as a child we only lived about 20 miles away and a lot my family were in Nottingham so we used to visit here a lot when I was young. Indeed my aunt and uncle now live a few minutes walk from one of the entrances to the grounds. My most vivid memory as a young child is a giant giraffe in the entrance to the Hall. This is still there but in a different location now!

Wollaton Hall is an Elizabethan Grade 1 listed mansion set in 500 acres of gardens and parkland. It  is about 3 miles from the city centre and is easily accessible by bus and car. We travelled by car. Entrance to the park and hall is free which is fantastic when you are a family of 6 like us – days out can prove to be very expensive! Parking is very reasonable too – £2 for 3 hours or £4 for the whole day. We had packed a picnic so apart from ice-creams for the children, the car parking was our only expense of the day.

Ice-creams!

As it was threatening rain with dark clouds looming we decided to start off in the Hall.

This is a very grand and impressive building both inside and out. But the children were more interested in the natural history museum – exhibits include a variety of taxidermied birds and game heads,  insect and mineral galleries and the natural collections gallery (look out for the duck-billed platypus and a giant anteater!). The hit of the day though was the Africa collection including the famous gorilla and giraffe specimens!

Look behind you!!

Look behind you!!

There are also different period room settings including a Tudor kitchen.

Acting like the lady of the house!

The grounds are extensive and beautiful and there are many deer roaming around. You can quite close to them for stunning photographs – I suppose they are quite used to people roaming by. We spent about an hour and half walking around and stopping for a picnic.

      Deer, oh deer

There are wide open spaces and beautiful flower gardens – when we went they were a mass of vibrant colours.

2013-05-04 13.53.14          Flower power

All in all, I would definitely recommend a visit to Wollaton Hall. It is somewhere you can go time and time again and they have a varied calendar of events throughout the year. It is also suitable for disabled visitors (see the link at the top of the page for more information).