Featured Slider

Days Out #5 | World of Country Life

White stag in a field

It was my dad's birthday on Monday, so him, my mum, Annabelle and I went for a day out at the World of Country Life park in Exmouth, and it was one of the best days out that I've ever been on. It had something for all of us, including a small museum, three different play areas, falconry displays, a deer safari, baby animals, goat walking, calf feeding and all sorts. 

As soon as you enter you're taken into a Victorian "street", which is basically a massive room that has agricultural machines on one side, and some little steam engine models that children can play on. There were also some caravan models - one which showed a beautiful gypsy caravan and another plainer one which showed a working mans quarters. My favourite part of this section was that they had miniature working models of how the equipment would have been used, and they'd used loads of Action Men toys as the workers. 

Annabelle playing on a miniature steam engine
Action men being used as models.

When you got round to the other side of the "street", you get to the more interesting part - well, it's the parts that interest me more anyway. There's fake old fashioned shops set up, so you can go in and have a look around, as well as displays depicting different fashions and scenes throughout history. There was an Edwardian picnic, an evacuee being dropped off with a new family, a Victorian butcher and loads more. 

I really enjoyed looking around the false shops, at the displays of type writers and old fashioned tills, and vacuum cleaners and other things. It's crazy to think that those objects ever belonged anywhere other than a museum. They also had a little Victorian house that you could look in, although it was only two rooms and not set up as it would have been, but rather just a further area to display objects. 

Annabelle was (worryingly) very taken with the displays of traps that they had all up the wall, especially the man trap designed to catch poachers. She also really liked the dairy, because there were lots of things that she could pick up and run off with. I got a lot of exercise on Monday as I chased Annabelle around. 

A collection of vacuum cleaners throughout the years
A dusty old typewriter
Annabelle sitting at a Victorian school desk

After chasing Annabelle around the museum, it was time to get to the part I had really been looking forward to - the animals! Typically, Annabelle didn't pay much attention to the donkeys or the rheas, but she was very impressed with the ducks. We spent a lot of time watching them float around on the water, which was riveting... sort of. 

I loved the donkeys. There was white one, who was stood by the fence was quite happy for me to reach in and pet him. And then as we walked around his field, he followed us, trotting next to the fence so we could continue to stroke him the whole way around. We also passed the red deer enclosure, and they were quite happy to be petted too, although slightly disappointed that we didn't offer them any food. 

From the animal enclosures, we went to the falconry display, which was when I had expected Annabelle to start getting moany and restless. Fortunately, she seemed to really enjoy it though - especially the bald eage who was enormous! It was quite funny, as the birds kept on losing their concentration and flying to the wrong perches, or else not flying anywhere at all, which was actually cute and endearing. Apparently it takes seven years to become a trained falconer, and there's written exams and all sorts. I honestly never knew that! 

A majestic white donkey
A close up of a red deer doe
A red tailed buzzard

After lunch we went on the deer safari, which was definitely the best part of the day. It was a bumpy tractor ride through the deer enclosure, and then the driver comes around with some food and lets you feed them. It was brilliant, and it wasn't just deer who came for a feed, there were three llamas as well. The animals were so sweet - and greedy. No sooner would you have the food in your hand than it would be snuffled straight back out again, which was somewhat gross.  

After the deer safari, we went to watch the owl display. Annabelle was getting tired by this point, and was far more interested in watching and commenting (extremely loudly) on passing planes or the location of her dummy that actually watching the display. She also applauded at random moments and screeched out "it's a duck, mummy!" when they bought out the eagle owl. Kids, eh? 

The animal nursery was adorable. There were teeny tiny chicks (unfortunately my camera had died by this point), goat kids, calves and piglets. The goats were playful and friendly, although one tried to eat my bag, which wasn't cool. The piglets I found to be frightening, maybe it was just the sheer size of their mum (she was huge!), or that they were really strong for their size. They were still really cute from a distance though. 

There was also a really big pen with some goats and sheep in that you could enter to walk around with the animals. We were only in there for a couple of minutes though, because we were worried that Annabelle would step in something nasty.

After we were done with the animals, there was time for a little bit of soft play before it was time to go home. It was a tiring day, but really brilliant. Annabelle fell asleep in the car, which was lucky because we were out for a surprise meal for my dad later in the evening. World of Country Life is definitely somewhere I'd be interested in going back to, because it seems like there's loads to do there whatever age your child is, and it was just a really brilliant day out. 

Annabelle's First Hair Cut

Annabelle has had her first hair cut - an event that I anticipated being horribly stressful. I could imagine Annabelle crying, wriggling, probably getting her ear nicked with the scissors, thus ensuring yet more crying. And to my complete surprise, it couldn't have gone better. The lady who cut Annabelle's hair was so lovely, and made her feel completely relaxed. In fact I don't think Annabelle even noticed that her hair was being cut. 

The place where we went was specifically for children's hair cuts, so the chairs were all in different shapes. There were ponies and motorbikes for kids to sit on, and Annabelle sat in a little boat. Each seat had its own TV screen, and we were given a choice of DVDs for her to watch while the hair dresser worked. Peppa Pig (Ugh!) was already playing when we walked in, and Annabelle seemed immediately at ease so we let that keep playing. 

Before we started I let the hair dresser know that I wanted to keep some of her curls, so she went and got me a handful of Ziploc bags to keep them in. And then after the cut was completed, she asked if Annabelle would like any glitter in her hair. We rejected that offer because I hate how it gets everywhere, but I love that she asked.

After she was done Annabelle was given a balloon and a little bag of chocolate raisins. I'm so happy with how positive the whole experience was. I think that we could go back again tomorrow and there'd be no complaint from Annabelle. I'm actually really looking forward to taking her to her next hair cut, whenever that might be.

One Step Forward and Three Steps Back

I've written before about how Annabelle's sleeping schedule has changed crazily since Christmas, and now we are re-sleep training her. It was going quite well - we'd finally got to a stage where we could put Annabelle to bed and sit in another room until she fell asleep, and we could be fairly confident that we wouldn't hear from her until about five or five thirty the next morning. Sadly that has somewhat changed again. 

No sooner had we got her into this new routine, then she got ill and everything got out of sync again. She has been coughing non stop and climbing into our bed during the night for a cuddle. One night after she was horrifically sick, I spent the night on the sofa watching Peppa Pig with her, and I assumed right then that we would have to start from scratch all over again. 

Fortunately she wasn't actually that bad afterwards. She still has a nasty cough, and isn't sleeping as well as she used to, but she's spending the night in her own bed, which I didn't expect. She has started taking hours to actually fall asleep after she's been put to bed, though, which is exhausting and frustrating for all of us. 

Lately it just seems that as soon as we begin making any sort of progress with Annabelle, something happens and we end up back where we started. I'm hoping it's just a phase, and maybe by the time that Annabelle turns two she'll be back to her normal sunny self who sleeps twelve hours a night, although I'm not holding my breath. So here's hoping to three steps forward.

July: The Month Of Birthdays

July is literally the Month Of Birthdays, which is why I've been neglecting my blog somewhat. It's been lovely seeing people and celebrating with them, but as we reach the middle of the month, my bank balance is beginning to get alarmingly low. Oops. 

It was James's birthday on the 4th. We didn't do much - Annabelle helped James open all of his presents and then she went off to spend the day with her Nan for a couple of hours while we went to the cinema. We saw The Secret Life of Pets, which we'd heard was really good. I can only guess all of those people saw something in it that we didn't. James and I found it just okay, but not something we'd rush out to see again.

And then, after James' birthday there was my nan's, my aunt's, my brother's and then my mum's in quick succession. And now, all this thinking about birthdays has got me worrying about Annabelle's birthday, which is still two and a half months away. She's turning two, so we're not going to do anything massive - it's not like she'll remember the effort that we're putting in. Maybe we'll just do tea and cake or something? What do other people do for their kids birthdays? I could really use some inspiration!

Still, at least the seemingly never ending stream of constant birthday celebrations has almost stopped. Until next July anyway... 

Days Out #4 | Dawlish Beach

Deserted beach on a cloudy day

As Annabelle grows ever closer to being a stroppy two year old, James and I decided that it was time we took her to the beach. We bought her a little bucket and spade, stuck her in a flowery romper, slathered her in suncream and set off for the train station. Annabelle was actually very well behaved, which was lucky because the train was delayed (of course), but she occupied herself with pointing out all of the other trains as they came and went. 

We weren't sure what to expect when we actually got to the beach in regards to Annabelle's reaction. She had never been anywhere even remotely similar before, but she wasn't at all phased. She wouldn't even sit and eat her lunch, she just wanted to be off exploring. She was very taken with the sea, and had no issues rushing in waist deep before we could grab her, regardless of how cold the water was.In fact, she was happily crouching down in the waves and giggling when particularly large ones splashed her face. Crazy girl. Sadly I couldn't stay in the sea with her for very long, because my legs were suddenly covered in stinging red bumps, which made the sea water unbearable. So it was up to Daddy to take one for the team.

Daddy and daughter walking in the sea

When he, too, had had enough we attempted to engage Annabelle in some sandcastle building, which she wasn't particularly into. More often than not one of us would be sitting among the piles of crumbling, failed sandcastles while the other chased Annabelle away from the water. Still, once she had figured out that she could fling sand at us, she was more than happy to sit with us and play with her spade. She'd fill the bucket up with a look of great concentration on her face, before tipping it upside down and starting all over again. I'd love to take her back to the beach at some point this summer, though preferably on a slightly sunnier day.

Daddy and daughter building sand castles

Drunk Ruth Wants Another Baby

Annabelle reaches for her presents on her birthday

I find myself constantly umming and ahhing about the idea of having a second child. On the one hand, there's nothing I adore more than being a mum. On the other, the money, the space, the morning sickness. We've discussed the idea of having another child several times, sometimes seriously and other times as a joke, but we always come to the same conclusion: we just can't afford to have another. I don't think that we could even consider trying until we have our own house and are no longer renting, which should be achievable by the time I'm in my fifties if I'm lucky. 

Still, everytime I have a drink or two too many, I always end up blabbing to James about how I'd love to have another baby at some point in the future. We can see from the way that Annabelle acts around other children that she'd be a brilliant big sister, and I love the idea of having a house full of incoherent chatter, and I can't erase those feelings, even if I know it's not feasible.

We now live in an age where almost everything is shared on social media, which means that as soon as someone reaches the twelve week mark of the pregnancy, it's out there for everyone to see. And often we're treated to almost daily updates of baby's movements, mum's cravings, scan photos, and just general information about how the baby is developing. And I think that it's seeing things like that, that awaken the nostalgia within me, and take me back to the - admittedly few - lovely parts of my own pregnancy; the scans, the gentle kicks, the excitemement that we shared with friends and family, and even the labour itself.

And now that much bigger part of my brain is kicking in again and saying "yes Ruth, but you can't afford another baby unless you win the lottery!" And thus, the never ending cycle continues...

Days Out #3 | Knightshayes

I had a voucher for a free day out with the National Trust, and today I decided to put it to use. My parents and I took Annabelle to Knightshayes Court in Tiverton, and it was great! It was quite sunny when we arrived, so we took advantage of it and opted to have some lunch whilst sitting outside. They did a wide selection of food for kids, which I thought was brilliant, although Annabelle didn't agree and didn't touch any of it. Then, after we had sat there for an hour, we headed in to the actual house. 

Annabelle enjoyed herself as she dashed from room to room with me chasing after her and steering her out of people's way. She's obsessed with stairs at the moment (probably because we haven't got any), so I was constantly having to pick her up and carry her past them. For the most part though, she was very well behaved, although very shy. A woman daring to say hello led to her burying her face in my hair and refusing to emerge for a good five minutes, although I managed to coax her out in the end by pointing out some books. 

Usually my favourite part of the house would be the servant's quarters since I know that had I been alive a hundred years or more ago, that's where I would have been living. Sadly there wasn't much in the way of kitchens or laundry rooms at Knightshayes. There was a kitchen, but no furniture and information was written on the tiles in markers. There was also a small housekeeper's parlour that you could get a glimpse of, but that was it. 

By the time we had moved on from the house and got into the gardens it was really hot. Annabelle was getting tired by this time so we moved her into the buggy, where she stubbornly stayed awake, until we eventually took pity on her and let her out to run around. She loved it! And the gardens were so pretty. I'm definitely going to try and find the time to visit more of these houses, and next time I'm going to try and drag James along too! Unfortunately, my words can't fully explain how beautiful this place is, so I'm going to let the photos do the talking.

Diary of an imperfect mum