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Baby Led Weaning!

1Taking a break from all our travel posts to share the big adventure our little Ettienne Rose is just starting with the world of food! She is a little shy of 6 months but showing all the signs of readiness and when she’s whipping food off our plates and straight into her little mouth it felt right to follow her lead and dive in.

We practiced baby led weaning with Elin and loved it! There’s no right or wrong way to introduce food but baby led just felt right for us and I really understood and related to the ethos behind it. It really benefited our big E and suited our family as a whole. For the most part shes a fab little eater now (I mean she’s still 2 so has her moments, but overall!) so we knew we’d do the same this time. I could write loads about the benefits and the skills it develops in babe, but all that can be picked up from Gil Rapley’s book (pretty much the goddess of baby led!) and I don’t want to get all preachy. Basically baby led means offering the food we eat, as we eat it.  And letting baby feed themselves from the off, being in control of what they put in their own bodies. It works for us, but however you wean your baby some of the meals we share could be appropriate for you, too.52I’m planning to share our journey as we go with what we’re eating together. Even though Elin is well and truely weaned I’l be sharing lots of her eating too; food is an ever changing relationship with babies and kids, so I never really consider her journey ‘finished’.

Its definitely important to say that every photo is just a snap shot in time and childhood. Before and after they could have been being prize tw*ts. Elin can certainly be a diva at meal times and its not always fun and games or fun at all (I’m sure Etty will learn those tricks in good time too) but I like to be positive and make this a positive space (although realistic too.) I can’t lie; its bloody satisfying when both kids sit nicely and enjoy a healthy hearty meal you’ve lovingly prepared. But at the same time sometimes those frozen fish fingers end up no where but the floor. Its all about balance I guess. 3I’m by no means a chef (just ask james!) and I’m the first to admit that I don’t know a whole heap about food and nutrition, so I’m learning as I go. But I do think food is vitally important and making healthy choices for our Littles is definitely something we should priorities. I also believe in pancke friday! (Everything in moderation, right?!) I’m going to aim to do a weekly round up (this will likely slip into monthly but I’l do my best!) of meal ideas that are weaning AND two year old approved. Basically what we’re all enjoying together. So keep coming back and check insta if you’re interested in this sort of thing. I know how hard it can be to find inspiration for meal times and how down heartening it can be at times and I’m always learning and find the advice from other mums invaluable in our own lives. (like, how have I only just learned about pizza toast after two years?!) So if this gives another mumma a fresh new idea then I’l consider it a win in my eyes! Watch this space 🙂

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Pier 51, and a trip of a life time!

pier51 2These pictures are from our morning spent on Pier 51. The whole New York trip involved scouting out the best play grounds for the girls and we couldn’t have picked one with a more picturesque back drop. I just love these pictures we snapped while Elin was busy playing and being her usual two year old self.

I’m gonna use this post to include a few tips for travelling with littles because I really think travel is something every parent should brave if they so wish. Babies are no reason not to access some of the amazing places in the world, and if anything, make the travel experience so much better! As a family some of my favourite memories are made whilst travelling and I don’t think people should be put off by the prospect, so here’s some things we’ve learned through our own adventures.pier51 1pier51 5pier51 411pier51 3As soon as we put up on facebook about to embark on the flight the first comment was along the lines of ‘wow, you guys are brave!’ I really don’t think we are, and we are certainly by no means some sort of super parents. But we love travelling together and we haven’t found a reason yet not to embrace that now that we are parents. The prospect can be pretty daunting I suppose, but we’ve found our children can be just as sh*tty in England as they can abroad. Often more so.

James works bloody hard for our family and time off is rare (read: non existant) so any extended time together has always been whilst actually on holiday. So from my point of view I have it a lot easier when away from home as I always have a second pair of hands which is a real luxury! But its also amazing to have  quality time altogether but in some really beautiful places too. Some of my favourite memories are made whilst we explore new places together and we always seem to connect so well whilst away. It turns out parenting on holiday isn’t so different from parenting while at home except for the fact we are both so on the ball that things actually run smoother.pier51 6pier51 7Obviously Elin has a whole heap of energy we have to get out, but even Etty is needing space and time to stretch out more and more. We’re always looking for chances to ‘get their wiggles out’ (I write that so much on this blog) and whether that’s a child designated space or we have to get a bit more inventive (like the times square steps) we find that helps massively in keeping the girls happy. They are both so much more amenable to being popped in the pram or carrier if they’ve had that time to move around themselves before hand. Its a fair enouh trade off, I think. pier51 8pier51 11pier51 16pier51 12When James and I used to go away we would cram in as much as we could. We’d look back through our camera roll and the pictures from the morning would feel like another day as we’d been SO busy and on the go the whole time. We can’t (maybe we could but we wouldn’t want to) keep that same pace with the kids. It would be so stressful and miserable children is no fun for anyone.

We’ll often make a list of our absolute must see things in a country or city, a few maybes that we would be okay to bump and space out those ‘activities’ throughout our trip. It means we get what we want from the holiday but also don’t stress ourselves out. We always factor in a child friendly activity every day of the trip. So maybe we do something for us in the morning and focus on the girls in the afternoon. A little research before a trip goes a long way to keep things running smooth. So for example this day we choose the Pier for the girls as James was visiting the 9/11 museum that day. It was all in close proximity and we could even include nap time as we walked- win win.

But essentially we keep an itinery very loose and are happy to chop and change as needed. Although we do try and set out in the morning with a goal and a rough idea of what we want to get up to (so that we don’t forget basically) we also allow relaxed days with nothing to do what so ever. I think with kids in general you need to be so flexible and getting too bogged down with plans can make it feel like more hard work.

pier51 13pier51 9When we go away we often like an Air B n B. This particular trip our friends actually surprised us with one which was the most exciting treat ever as we’d planned to cram in with them and some other wedding guests- James and I were like excited children running around our studio apartment on an absolute, sleep deprived high. (Massive thanks to Tom and Alyssa for that, you guys are incedible!) But we go for an Air B’n’B because it just offers a lot more home comfort for kids. The addition of a kitchen is also a bonus so that their meal times aren’t affected, and it keeps costs down. (we have yet to perfect the family of four dining experience in resturaunts!)

The first thing we do is find  a super market (hello Target!) and buy enough to last us the trip. We’ll usually do a second fresh fruit shop after about day three; this is literally no different than if we were at home. We load up on familiar snacks for the girls (mostly Elin at this stage but eventually Etty too) so that she has things that she’s used too. During this trip it was cashew nuts, cheerios, yoghurts, oats and strawberries but whatever it is we find keeping some food the same helps her adapt. There’s nothing worse then a jet lagged HUNGRY two year old and familiarity helps with that. We pack a massive lunch box (I’ve got my eyes on YUM box, they look so good- that’ll be my first treat when we next splurge) and that helps keep our daily spending down. It will include all her snacks and some bribes too (both our Italy and New York trip she’s consumed so many buscuits, oops!) as well as something substantial to have at midday. Two years of parenting and we find snacks can avert a whole load of potential meltdowns. Snacks and naps solve so much haha!

(Also WATER. we need to always carry water with us, and for us parents too. Another thing to add to the shopping list is a Little Sparrow personalized water bottle for me and James as we are always remembering for the kids and never ourselves! https://littlesparrowshop.co.uk/products/700ml-personalised-water-bottle )
1412pier5110pier51 14I talked in a previous post how we get on with just a single buggy, a buggy board and a trusty carrier. It works for us and our age gap, and the personality of our babies but obviously each family set up is different and also places have different levels of accessibility with the buggy too. I really do think baby wearing makes travel just SO much easier with kids. Whether it was navigating the airport or covering miles by foot the wrap was invaluable. And even Elin got some babywearing time in as we climbed the mountain Up State!

Obviously as the girls get older our travel arrangements for them will have to shift a little, but I’m sure we’ll embrace that too. I can’t imagine not exploring with them and discovering new places together. I’m so excited to show them the world! This was the first trip Elin will really remember and I love that these could be her first memories. She’s talking about it so much and comes out with little tip bits that I know the whole thing was more than worth it. There is literally no reason not to travel as a family but a hundred reasons to do so. So if you’re contemplating a trip but the children mean you’re on the fence, just go. Absolute worst case scenario, at least they get to act up in a brand new exciting place. Best case; you have the trip of a life time and happy content children leave you feeling just the tiniest bit smug (it all balances out eventually!)

Take the trip, say yes, make the memories. If nothing’s stopping you, don’t stop. That’s how we ended up with this as our summer and I am SO grateful!cover photopier51 15

 

 

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Children’s Museum of Manhattan!

Just a quick post today; sharing some from our trip to Manhattan’s children’s museum. As you know, we are always seeking out great spots to let Elin get all her energy out, especially while travelling which can see her cooped up more than she’s used to. We try our best to turn our own activities into toddler friendly ones, but its also nice to do something entirely focused on her. An afternoon here was the easiest thing for us as parents; she could entertain herself for hours here and we could relax  a little (or a lot) knowing she was totally sorted. It was also plenty cosy to let Etty roll around as she refines that skill of crawling. We didn’t get as many photos as we should but safe to say that it was a childs paradise spread over five floors with so much to explore and navigate. Complete with slides, a fire engine, a food shop and everything else you could dream we could easily have whiled away several days here. (It was also a perfect spot to take refuge from the city’s sun and humidity over mid-day and early afternoon when its hottest!)DSC_0088DSC_0085Spot those little curls? Its taken over two years but they are so beautiful!CMOM3DSC_0102CMOM2CMOM10The children’s museum in Rome had one of these walls too. It entertained Elin then as much as now. Honestly the UK is so behind; we need a museum that rivals these amazing spaces we have discovered in other major cities.CMOM910These pictures just crack me up. She looks so angelic too!DSC_0099CMOMAnd there she is, our littlest lush. She is such a sweet little girl and often falls in Elin’s two year old shadow. But she’s actually a little dream babe, so adaptable and happy, with a smile for anyone she sees. We call her Happiness at least three times a day because she really does embody happiness. We’re very lucky to have such an easy going babe to join our tribe, although I’m certain she’ll make me pay for this when she turns two!CMOM5Possibly our favourite floor was in the basement and was all about dance and movement. Elin was truly exhausted by this point as it was the last bit we visited but she was forcing herself to keep going, practically sleepwalking through it but determined to experience it all just the same.CMOM4CMOM6CMOM7CMOM8There are so many bits I didn’t get photos of (or not very clear photos because our camera’s auto focus is having a moment!) but mostly because we were half exhausted ourselves or busy engaging with Elin as she played. But this place was amazing and could happily entertain kids a lot older too. You really could get so much out of it and really teach the kids too, everything from physics to shopping to mark making to literacy. It had it all. I’d only advice you take a drink with you as sadly there’s no cafe here (and we both desperately needed a coffee that afternoon!) but other than that we couldn’t have asked for a better space for our littles. Highly recommend to all! Thanks for having us CMOM!

 

 

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New York, New York

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Its gone midnight here so clearly jet lag is still at large but I’m just now starting to look through hundreds of our New York photos. and somehow it still doesn’t feel like we took enough to truly capture how AMAZING our trip was. So many amazing moments were captured on just our phones so its hard to keep everything in any sort of order here but I have to share as these are my favourite memories we could have.

In theory our trip sounded incredible, though a bit insane with the kids in tow. Someone said (and I agreed) that it sounded like a dream holiday/wedding to go to. Without children. I totally understand that! But somehow the entire thing was even better than how it sounded, surpassing our expectations and easily being our top adventure yet. And the girls just made the trip what it was! Condensing all that into just a few blog posts is pretty impossible so expect the next few days or weeks to be very photo heavy and just a mismash of musings from our trip, but here’s a few to kick it off.

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Its the first time we’ve traveled with the kids and really criss crossed time zones. I guess having two sleep thieving daughters meant we coped with it fairly well, catching some zzzz’s when we could. But the time difference still hit hard. It meant lots of 4am starts and by the time the parks opened at 8 we were practically banging down the gates desperate to burn off all of Elin’s insane energy. But this city was the perfect spot to do that; New York as your play ground really couldn’t be any more of a dream for a kid like Elin. She was truly in her absolute element. It was basically one big stomping ground and a big holiday to find as many slides as you possible can. Travelling with kids I think you have to embrace that side of it and just enjoy. At least we do.blog5Elin’s face here gets me every time!

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We didn’t expect to spend much time at Times Square, but equally it would feel wrong to visit New York and not see it. Its just too iconic and I’m okay being that tourist in all honesty! So we stopped by and actually ended up hanging about all afternoon. The rain was SO welcome and Elin honestly loved the shops; the disney store and M and M world were massive hits for her. Plus she’s still talking about the red steps and entertained everyone jumping up and down them. With the flights, subways, taxis and a lot of walking she surprisingly took being contained very well, but we still used any creative way to get out those wiggles and that meant climbing the iconic stair case about 60 times (each!)15blog21

We took it in turns baby wearing in part because it was so hot! But it also seems to help Elin if we split that time between us, she engages better with the parent whose not attached to the baby so mixing that up always helps keep her a bit more grounded we’ve learned. Its likely the last tiem we use our beloved Solly wrap (with Etty at least 😉 ) so it was lovely to both get some time in with our littlest. And James got all the heart eyes for being that baby wearing daddy, and lots of happy comments too!

In my head I’d thought of New York as really unfriendly and anti social but the reality was so different. Maybe we just go lucky, maybe its the British accent or maybe we just looked like over burdened exhausted parents in desperate need of a boost, but everyone was SO friendly. We had locals helping us with our luggage, offering directions or subway advice without asking, people complimenting the girls, entertaining Elin on the tube, positive comments on breastfeeding and just general conversation starters that, okay we are used to living in the southwest, but that we definitely wouldn’t have expected in the city! It was really refreshing.blog14blog15

For anyone wondering we got around with the girls with a combo of the wrap, the pram, the buggy board. We made the decision we wouldn’t invest in a double (almost exactly 2 years between our daughters) and for the most part that works really well at home, and also here too. We did worry how accessible the Subway would be with the pram but it wasn’t so bad. I wouldn’t fancy doing it alone but with an extra set of Daddy shaped hands we did just fine.

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We always wished we’d seen a bit more of central park the first time James and I went as a couple over 4 years ago. It was just one of those things and at the time shopping felt more important so we hoped we’d one day get the chance to go back. This time we spent hours exploring and adventuring and it was beyond lovely! We got to see lots of the iconic bits including the Bethesda fountain and where the remote control boats are sailed with the Alice in Wonderland statues. And we also got to climb lots of rocks, per Elin’s request. And most importantly we got to eat a lunch of Minute maid Ice cream, so it was pretty good for all involved!

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Wild turtle spotting, as you do apparently in Central park.blog26blog2526

The heat in New York really was something else! We were expecting it, but at the same time you really couldn’t expect it to be THAT humid. So an ice cream lunch was on the cards almost every day. Elin won’t pose for pictures any more (traitor) so I have to catch her off guard; ice cream also helps with that.

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Final picture for today; a rare family of four selfie! I’ve still got loads more posts to share including our afternoon at the Children’s museum of Manhatten, time spent at pier 51, the actual wedding on top of Mount Jo and our stay upstate in Saratoga. I’l also do my best to update my flying with kids post with how we got on flying long haul with both babes, it might be helpful to anyone planning their own adventure in the near future. This trip at least gave me a lot of content 😉 But mostly just memories!

Happy Weekend everyone!

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Real talk.

My dear, sweet Ettienne Rose is almost 5 months old. In actual fact it was a year ago tomorrow that we saw her on the screen for the very first time, an 8 week old peanut wriggling in my belly. She fits so beautifully into our family and in so many ways, she saved me. Its hard to put into words but having her was so mentally freeing for me; it was like coming up for fresh air. 5 months

I suffered with post partum anxiety so badly after Elin, post natal depressions younger cousin. I agonized over everything, torturing myself to get it all right. I still do in some ways, Elin is my challenge and I so desperately want to succeed with her; even though she’s nothing short of amazing I convince myself that i’m not. For the most part its under control and I can live a normal enough day to day life, but it would always creep in and turn me inside out. Having your first the expectations on you are immense. Society plays a role in that, but, for me at least, my worst critic was myself. I’d punish myself mentally for each screw up I made or each time I could have been better, more patient, more knowing. I couldn’t have loved her more if I tried but each day I knew i could do better.

People would look at me and have no idea. They wouldn’t know that there were times I simply couldn’t leave the house but I remember at least two stretches spanning a good few months where that was the reality for us. That was at my worst. Better days just saw the tears and feelings of suffocation after bed time fell. It looks different on everyone but that time post partum is so fragile and turbulent on every new mum and we should always, always be kind. You never know what darkness someone else is hiding.

I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn’t see the end to the colic, the teething, the sleepless nights, the inability to communicate and the frustrations that brings. I couldn’t see how her stranger danger would ever get under control or her confidence would ever sky rocket in the way that it has. And because I couldn’t see it I felt forever trapped in that particular phase and always trying fruitlessly to ‘fix’ it, even though it was never something I could, or even should, fix. The reality is you don’t even notice the shift when it happens, you don’t notice how they subtly change and grow and those problems are no longer problems. (except sleep. I definitely remember the night that that changed!)

I’m not like that with Etty. With her I can see the light. I’m living with that light. A living, breathing, singing and dancing light that shows me how fleeting these days are; the good and the bad. So with my littlest love I’m not sweating the small stuff. And as a result she’s gliding through her developmental changes with so much more ease then Elin had.

I also couldn’t believe after Elin how exceptionally LONELY motherhood is. It can be the loneliest thing in the world, except you are never, ever alone. I hadn’t built my village at that point with Elin (not helped because I was still on such a high horse on how you ‘should’ parent). Older children scared the hell out of me, racing around generally acting their age, because that toddler could completely crush my child in a heart beat. Plus I didn’t think I could possibly have anything in common with that toddlers mum. I didn’t know how quickly I would become that toddler’s mum, and how relevant those baby years would still feel. (Elin’s babyhood still feels fresh as anything to me, she will forever be my baby!) That fear/ nativity stopped me connecting with more experienced mums who would actually provide me a confidence I needed far more. Second time around I have that support network so much more, and that is the most uplifting feeling on a  bad day.

The other massive difference with your second is that you already have a purpose. My purpose was providing Elin with a childhood, she needed to experience life with as much enthusiasm as I could muster so fitting Etty into that equation was a lot easier. I already had a place to be and my own place in this little life of ours. When you are presented with your first baby you don’t necessarily have that, I know I didn’t, and its hard to find when they aren’t yet interactive or mobile.

Etty’s arrival de-throned me of the super mum title I thought I needed and gave me the biggest dose of reality. The reality that babies cry, its just what they do. I’m one person and they are two babies so I’m instantly at a disadvantage there. Of course there would be tears, it would be wrong if there weren’t. The reality that you can’t be everything all the time. The reality that a few hours ‘me time’ isn’t selfish but actually really really positive so you can come back to the game stronger. The reality that no amount of breastmilk or sensory play prevents that beautiful bundle one day turning into a two year old 😉 It was the reality check I needed to stop holding myself to such a high standard and just actually enjoy the ride. Every day would be FAR from perfect, but there would be positives in each day. I started living for the positives.

Anxiety has a way of stripping all the joy out of things so taking back control of that is the most powerful thing you can do. For me, my sweet second daughter keeps me feeling strong and capable. She makes me a better mother to them both. I am so grateful to her, and love that she brings to us all.

5 months Etty, and I couldn’t imagine not knowing you. You complete this family and I am humbled by you and your sister daily. Thank you for this journey sweetheart.

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13A few Sunday’s ago we decided to rent one of the little row boats down the bay. We actually did the same thing when Elin was just a babe in arms, but generally we don’t take advantage of these activities so close on our doorstep. We’re hoping to rent a little boat in central park in a few weeks so figured this could be a good test run to see how we cope with toddlers and all. I’l admit I think the ratio of adults to kids should be a little higher to have a spare grown up on board, but other than that I think we did okay! pictures:

1463Notice the stripes? Yep, i’m that mum, and just too cool not too. I stopped myself wearing a powder blue dress like the note book but couldn’t not dress my team in some stripes.

In order to get Elin to enjoy her time on the boat most we played lots of I spy (and mummy spied some baby ducklings which was just precious!), we threw lots of pebbles we’d collected earlier and Elin liked to lean right over to splash her hands. When we find little activities like this Elin gets so much more out of our ltitle adventures and feels much more included too.85214Thats the face you make when your sister grabs your hair (thats taken over two years to even grow!) and won’t let go. Elin clearly noticed way before I did. Etty’s at that super fun grabby stage where she doesn’t actually know how to un-clench those pudgy fists even if she wanted too, and we all know about it!109Just a proud Daddy and his mini me! Elins at a pretty emotional age and I can only sum it up as being very, very two. However I think its important to push her out of comfort zone and try new things right now, despite being a creature of habit sometimes. The look of pride she has when she re tells you of her adventures, even and especially ones she initially wasn’t too sure of, tells me we’re right to keep going in the face of mini toddler melt downs. She’s at an age where she’s really remembering these things and I know that we are building up some of her first ever memories. I really want those to be great memories.

Here’s where I’d want to link back to a blog post from our time on the boat two years ago, to compare and reminisce. Except I was way to scared to have a blog back then so I can’t do that! So I’m chucking some in here anyway, and who knows, next year I’l casually drop the link and compare posts through the years. boattrip7boattrip9boattrip6Here’s to another week! Hopefully the sun stays shining and the toddler tantrums remain few 😉

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Strawberry Picking!

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Last weekend we took the girls strawberry picking over at Ford Abbey. Its one of my favourite summer traditions, one that we’ve done every year since Elin was born. I’m a sucker for seasonal things anyway and any little way to embrace the time of year so this is a perfect welcome into summer for us. I also love strawberries, so there’s that. We timed it to include a picnic lunch on the lawn and just generally let Elin run and play outdoors. Its so pretty here and children just seem so at home among the fruit out doors. I love making Elin’s (and now Etty’s) childhood full of fun traditions and just being a child doing simple things that can feel so special. Here’s some of our photos from our morning.

3762589I don’t know, I just think that in an ideal world, children belong barefoot outdoors, running up and down strawberry patches in summer and bundled up jumping in leaves in Autumn. Life is far from ideal but theres no reason we can’t get a tiny taste of it every now and again with our babies.

2445Elin is full of it right now, every day is something new; her vocabulary is mind blowing for me as she welcomes me into this amazing little world going on inside her head. Its hard to picture next year we’ll have both girls racing around the field and causing chaos but seeing the development in Elin recently I know it will happen before my eyes. Motherhood is a constant battle between being excited and eager to watch your baby thrive in the next stage of childhood but also wanting to keep them tiny for as long as possible. Its even harder second time round as it seems to go so much quicker and you also know just how fleeting the ‘baby’ stage actually is.

151716Everyone climb on the Daddy!

1819‘One day you’ll be tall like me Etty!’ just so much love for my sleep thieving, emotionally temperamental little monsters.

1011121413Some days I’m gladly putting them to bed at 5:30 because I’m just so done with motherhood. But some days I look at them and can’t believe how amazing they are and I want the day to just last that bit longer, to make some more memories. This was definitely one of those days for us. It came off the back of our first date night since Etty’s birth so I’m sure that helped too, but they were really SO good. It was back to business as usual come monday but its nice to know we have pretty brilliant days in us all, anyway.

212223I couldn’t not share these, because they pretty much sum up the last ten days of parenting! I apologize in advance to teenage Elin but, kid, you really are so cute and potty training you has been a dream. Plus nothing says toddler hood quite like this! And then some stranger offered to get a photo of all of us together- it wasn’t quite the family shot we would have chosen but it was certainly candid. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go, right.

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You two are a dream! And making memories with this family of mine is really what its all about for me. Because its days like these we’ll look back on. All the chaos and frustrations and trials will be forgotten but these happy babies are what I’l remember when they’re old and grown. As parents we know we’re blessed, but some days we feel more blessed than others. Must be the sun, but I’m feeling it a lot more right now, between the sleepless nights and toilet trips, I’m feeling really blessed with these two.

Highly recommend popping over to Ford Abbey before the season finishes! Its a lovely way to spend a few hours and a great family tradition for everyone to enjoy, plus a really inexpensive way to keep the littles entertained. I’m sure we’ll try and go again next chance we get. Plus the strawberries are easily better then any you’d buy and I’m pretty sure Elin ate enoguh to get her five a day, every day for this week. Win win.